KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee organization has opened a housing complex in East Knoxville to help people experiencing homelessness in the area.

Volunteer Ministry Center cut the ribbon on Caswell Manor, its second permanent supportive housing site, on Wednesday, May 3. The complex partially opened in January 2023 with the first 24 residents moving in. In May, 24 additional residents are expected to move in.

“When we talk in our community about the challenges of homelessness and chronic homelessness and people who need our support, we know the answers. We know how to help, and the answer is permanent supportive housing,” said Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon.

The complex contains 48 one-bedroom apartments each with a private kitchen and bathroom. There is also a community building, which will house property and case management offices; lounge and dining areas; a computer lab; and a laundry room. VMC added that a patio will be built to accommodate outdoor seating and activities.

Caswell Manor will help those who are experiencing chronic homelessness by providing stability, support and reintegration into the community. Services include interpersonal counseling, skills training, workforce re-entry training, education, financial literacy, life enrichment, field trips and more will be available to residents. Property attendants, on-site around the clock, seven days a week, and weekday professional case managers, working in close cooperation with the McNabb Center and Cherokee Health Systems, will be available to assist residents.

“Living on the streets and in places not meant for human habitation is incredibly isolated and it seriously impacts almost every aspect of mental health and physical health. The neighbors that are going to call Caswell home have all been unsheltered in those conditions for at least a year. Some of them many, many times that,” said Volunteer Ministry Center CEO Chris Cowart.

To build the Caswell Manor, VMC received more than $10 million in state, federal and private financing and $1.4 million of local public funding through the City of Knoxville’s Affordable Rental Development Program. The complex is managed by Emerald Housing Management, a third-property management firm “with experience operating supportive housing within Section 42 and U.S. Housing & Urban Development Department (HUD) requirements” according to VMC.

“[Permanent supportive housing] is the foundation that brings a whole new opportunity for well-being,” said Cowart. “Housing is truly the springboard for connecting our neighbors to services and resources. And safe and secure housing reintroduces a sense of belonging. It provides the ability to reengage a community or neighbors, can be proud of. And it allows an individual to focus on themselves, instead of where they’re going to sleep for the night. It’s more than housing. It’s home.”

VMC’s first permanent supportive housing site, Minvilla Manor, is located on Broadway in North Knoxville. It contains 57 units and opened in 2010. VMC hopes to build on the success it has seen through Minvilla Manor at Caswell Manor.

The opening of this complex comes as homelessness is growing in Knoxville. Last year, a report found that the homeless population in Knoxville increased by 50 percent from 2021 to 2022.

“The city of Knoxville has been and will continue to be very committed in word and deed and money to addressing homelessness in Knoxville. In my budget for the coming year, it includes $7 and a half million for affordable housing, more than a million in city funds, local dollars to address homelessness. We recently announced something that I’m really excited about, the Joint Office of Housing Stability,” said Kincannon.

The Office of Housing Stability is working to assess and evaluate the needs of the homeless population and find solutions.