Is it fact or fiction that homeless people are sent to Knoxville

Is it fact or fiction that homeless people are sent to Knoxville?

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Hackler says she came looking for better opportunities and paid her own way. Hackler says she came looking for better opportunities and paid her own way.
Is it fact or fiction that homeless people are sent to Knoxville? Is it fact or fiction that homeless people are sent to Knoxville?
Advocates for the homeless say this belief could be found in any big city across Tennessee. Advocates for the homeless say this belief could be found in any big city across Tennessee.
"Most of the statistics available show that many of our homeless are from Knoxville," said Doctor Roger Nooe who has been studying homelessness since 1985 "Most of the statistics available show that many of our homeless are from Knoxville," said Doctor Roger Nooe who has been studying homelessness since 1985
Wendy Wand is the Community Impact Director at United Way of Blount County and says leaders there are starting a 10-year plan to prevent and help end chronic homelessness. Wendy Wand is the Community Impact Director at United Way of Blount County and says leaders there are starting a 10-year plan to prevent and help end chronic homelessness.

By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Is it fact or fiction that homeless people are sent to Knoxville? Knox County has budgeted roughly $116,000 on services for the homeless this coming year, while the city of Knoxville budgets roughly $277,000.

Advocates for the homeless say this belief could be found in any big city across Tennessee.

The streets of Downtown Knoxville are where Jelesa Hackler called home for about six months. She says homelessness brought her here.

"I'm originally from Greeneville, Tennessee," she said.

Hackler says she came looking for better opportunities and paid her own way.

"I rode on a Greyhound bus," she said.

She became part of Knoxville's homeless population, which Doctor Roger Nooe has been studying since 1985. He's part of a research team that releases a report every other year on homelessness.

"Most of the statistics available show that many of our homeless are from Knoxville," he said.

Dr. Nooe thinks the belief homeless are shipped to Knoxville is a myth.

Dr. Nooe and his team reviewed 7,320 people accessing services from homeless programs in Knoxville to develop the 2012 Homelessness Study. The map in the study shows 60 percent of homeless people listed their last permanent address in the Knoxville-Knox County area.

"The other 40 percent, a significant number of them, would come from surrounding counties or other counties in East Tennessee," added Dr. Nooe.

That poses the question, how are they getting here?

6 News compiled a list of the resources available through each United Way organization. Roane, Hamblen and Sevier Counties refer homeless to Knoxville, adding most homeless individuals find transportation on their own.

Hawkins County refers their homeless to either Morristown or Kingsport. The United Way of McMinn and Meigs County says it's rare having to send someone outside of their area.

Regional Director Judy Fenton of the Jefferson, Grainger, Union and Loudon Counties' United Way says in some cases, if the homeless they're serving have children, local law enforcement will take the family to the county line. The agency they're getting help from will then find a way to get the family to the shelter.

Wendy Wand is the Community Impact Director at United Way of Blount County and says leaders there are starting a 10-year plan to prevent and help end chronic homelessness. Until then, Wand says she makes it her priority to keep the homeless population in Blount County.

"The barriers that we're seeing here, though, is that funding is limited. And even though we're seeing close to 400 homeless, and there are probably numbers far greater than that, the services that we have available are probably nowhere near capable of capturing that whole population," added Wand.

So what happens to those individuals whose needs aren't being met? Wand says, in some rare cases, they end up leaving.

"We would send that individual to Knox County, and how they get there just depends on who is in connection with that individual. If a church is supporting them, then sometimes churches take them out there. Or individuals who have run into them. Sometimes we have taxis take them out there," said Wand.

That's because there's the belief individuals would have better success with the services available in Knoxville.

Is that fair for taxpayers? 6 News took the question to local leaders.

"Smaller counties can't afford it, obviously, and the larger counties, I guess we can shoulder more of that debt and we do through our programs. Is it fair? Probably not," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

"If someone is in need, I'm not going to ask where was their last address, because they're in need now," said Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero.

KARM, Volunteer Ministry Center and Salvation Army are just a few of the places people find refuge in Knoxville, and in Jelesa Hackler's case, she got the care she came looking for.

"I'm not homeless anymore and I got off the streets," she said.

The City of Knoxville is currently working on a new plan to address homelessness. Leaders say it will encompass prevention, transitional and emergency services, as well as expanding resources for long term care.


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