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Knoxville discusses plan to curb homeless problem under I-40 overpass

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Michael Dunthorn, in charge of Knoxville's initiative to curb homelessness, calls the dozens of homeless people living under the Interstate 40 overpass along North Broadway in Knoxville a small piece of the overall homeless problem. 

He says the city is taking action on this issue soon. The first way is through contracting with the Volunteer Ministry Center to hire two highly specialized social workers to help with service resistant homeless people. Service resistant means they're either refusing the help of a shelter or not meeting their rules of conduct. 

Their second plan requires TDOT approval. It includes the engineering and public service departments bringing in porta-potties, water, security, and implementing hours of operation. Dunthorn believes this will  clear the sidewalks and allowing police to enforce sidewalk policies.

"Ultimately, our goal is to not have people unsheltered and out on the streets and remaining homeless. Our goal is to get people the resources they need to become permanently houses," said Dunthorn.

He estimated the two-part investment to be around $300,000. 

He credits homelessness to many issues including a lack of affordable housing, the opioid problem, unemployment issues, domestic violence, even veterans with PTSD. 

Dunthorn added he city is open to new ideas on ways to combat the issue.

"The city has not been dragging it's feet. This is a difficult and complicated problem to address. We are not different than any other city in the country. I talk to my peers in other cities all the time and we all struggle with this," he said. 

To read the city's progress report on their plan to curb homelessness, click here

To see the full plan click here


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