The city of Knoxville announced Monday that its public service department crews have begun preparing an area designated for a “new day space” for homeless people beneath I-40 at Broadway.
A new multi-agency coordinated intake, assessment and referral system, called “CHAMP” (or Coordinated Housing Assessment and Match Plan) has also been created to speed up the referrals to housing and prioritize people with the most urgent needs.
Three social workers have also been hired to reach out directly to chronically homeless individuals as well as to prostitutes, aiming to divert them from the streets by connected them with social services and access to permanent housing, the city stated in a press release announcing its efforts and recent steps to combat the homeless population issues.
These new steps the city has taken have been funded by the additional $500,000 that Mayor Madeline Rogero announced in September 2017 to address the unsheltered homeless people living in the area and to improve outreach and connection to services.
After the initial cleanup of the Broadway site, the city’s engineering department will coordinate with contractors for paving and installation of fencing. Paving operations are tentatively set to begin around Oct. 29.
The new day space will be located on the west side of Broadway, with basic amenities planned to include a paved area (replacing the current gravel ground cover), benches, picnic tables, new fencing and portable toilets.
“The finished product will be a very basic but safe and clean space where unsheltered people can be during the day, along with social workers who are focusing on long-term solutions with these individuals,” said Michael Dunthorn, program coordinator for the city’s office on homelessness.
Once construction is complete, the city will contract with a security company to open the gate in the morning, maintain general order during the day, and close the area and lock the gate at night.
Public Service crews will clean the space every night.
Several weeks ago, Knoxville Police Department officers and homelessness service providers began informing those who regularly gather off Broadway that they would be displaced once the construction began.
Officers and service providers helped those individuals find other places to stay, the city said, such as KARM’s shelter. KARM reported earlier in October that it was sheltering an increased number of people.
“It’s not illegal to be homeless,” Mayor Rogero said. “But there are current safety and public health concerns that the City, Knoxville Police and service providers must address.”