KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The city and community service providers are offering more housing and shelter opportunities to the homeless, including reopening the “Guest House” in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as cooler weather approaches.
The city will close homeless encampments as well.
“We are making a coordinated shift in how we assist people who are unsheltered during COVID-19,” Mike Dunthorn, homeless program coordinator for the city’s Office on Homelessness, said. “While open-air encampments can offer physical distancing, the health, sanitation and safety concerns are worsening for those living in such encampments – including the onset of colder weather.”
Knox County Metro Drug Coalition and Volunteer Ministry Center opened the Guest House in April to shelter people experiencing homelessness who are awaiting COVID-19 test results.
“I am pleased that Knox Area Rescue Ministries, Volunteer Ministry Center and the Salvation Army have been able to work with Health Department guidance to modify their facilities to allow safer sheltering during the pandemic,” Dunthorn said. “Our immediate goal now is to try to get everyone we can into a healthy, sheltered space.”
The city is also in the process of making $2.2 million in federal CARES Act funding available to support additional outreach, shelter modifications and expanded operations.
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