KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Newly released data on the Knox Homeless Management Information System dashboard shows staggering details of the community’s issues relating to homelessness in the last quarter.
In the last quarter, an average of 1,830 were homeless on any given day. During that time, the KnoxHIMS dashboard said 73% of new clients were from the city of Knoxville.
Some of the details revealed by the data shows that approximately 36% of people who were interviewed said they could not find affordable housing and that was what lead to their homelessness. Nearly 1 in 4 said eviction led to them becoming homeless, and another 17% said they were fleeing domestic violence. Mental health and substance abuse issues only led to 4% of homeless cases, the data revealed.
Erin Read, executive director of the Knoxville-Knox County Office on Housing Stability explained that the dashboard gives a very good synopsis of where the community is at in regards to homelessness and why it is there.
“One of the most illuminating parts of that dashboard is the reasons that people give that caused their homelessness. Two-thirds of people are reporting economic or affordable housing reasons for their homelessness, so either they couldn’t find affordable housing they were evicted, or they lost their job,” Read said.
The data shows that for every three people who becomes homeless in Knoxville and Knox County, only one leaves the system.
The largest percentages of those affected by homelessness on the dashboard are those considered to be in their prime working age.
“We know that we have a relatively high level of homelessness among people in their prime working age years between 35 and 55. We don’t have a complete explanation as to why that is, but a lot of our programs are, as a community, a lot of our programs are focused on trying to get people the help they need just to get stably rehoused, because that’s really what many many people experiencing homelessness in our community need is just a step up so that they can step out of homelessness, they have resources to draw upon, they can, they can get employed and so a lot of our programs are. Are geared to help them do that.”
Following those two age groups, which make up approximately 36% of the homeless population, the next highest age group experiencing homelessness is those under 18 years old, at approximately 16% of the population.
Read also explained more information about the Point In Time (PIT) Count that was released by the Knoxville-Knox County Office of Housing Stability on Wednesday. According to the release, which included information about the PIT count and a few other counts, homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County has decreased from last year, however, it is still higher than the ten-year average.
“The point in time count measures the level of observed homelessness in the community on a given night in January. So it’s a snapshot and it counts people in emergency housing, transitional housing and also people living on the street unsheltered. The unsheltered portion of that count is going to be. Of somewhat unreliable simply because the way we gather that information as volunteers fan out across city and county and they can only count the people they can find and they can’t find everybody.” Read explained. “In the second quarter of 2023, on average every day 1800 people accessed homeless services who were literally homeless. So our PIT count shows that we had 925 people homeless on that night in January. And yet we we can see that there are a lot more people than that. Accessing services who are identifying themselves as literally homeless.”
Given the information of what has led to homelessness, one might assume the answer is as simple as building more housing. Unfortunately, it seems that may not fully solve the problem.
According to Read, roughly 3,000 new rental units are under construction in the city and county, however, most of those units are market rate housing. She added that the average rent in the area is $450 higher than it was before the pandemic.