Saturday, March 08, 2008

A More Permanant Solution

As I sit here writing, drywall dust covering all of my exposed parts and my bathroom completely unusable, I want to bring up a topic that is near to all of us who live downtown. It's no secret that Knoxville has a homeless, shall we say, situation. Anyone who has been on the 100 Block of Gay St. between 6:30 and 8:00 Am has seen the results of the shelters closing for the day (I assume that is what they are doing). There are dozens of homeless, some call them transients and other things, wandering south for the organization that is set up right there at the corner of the 100 block, their name and function escapes me now.

I bring this up because I read and article in the Wall Street Journal from Thursday that intrigued me. I have often and loudly proclaimed myself a fiscal conservative and desire a small government with a limited scope of social services. That said I can appreciate success when i see it in the form of money saving programs that enable individuals to help themselves.

This article discusses a program/ study in Chicago (a wannabe Knoxville) where there has bee a shift in focus to housing the homeless as quickly as they can in independent housing that they, the no-longer homeless, care for. The results are trending towards a striking cost savings in health care savings per person. If anyone paid attention to the Tenn-care fiasco a few years ago we learned that we could quickly bankrupt our state if health care costs get out of hand.

This particular study dealt with people who were chronically sick and showed that housing people with chronic disease and health problems can reduce their medical costs by millions of dollars.

I want to know what Knoxville plan is. I realize we have some fantastic groups like the Salvation Army, KARM, and others. Stan has been working with a group through his church that aids men with terminal illnesses in a group home setting. Do other people know of other programs that seek to move the homeless into more permanent housing.

It's important to help these people who need help, especially if the end goal is to enable them to help themselves. I'd be thrilled to get feedback from as many people as possible who know of programs or groups and how they operate.

Write in Spellings for Knox District 1A


The Modern Gal said...

I've never gotten the sense that the city is trying to do anything to help them ... officials seem to concentrate more on controlling them -- keeping them from panhandling on busy streets rather than trying to help them develop job skills or find housing.

It all goes back to the adage: "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime."

stan said...

where knoxville seems to excel is providing temporary solutions to the homeless. like you said, the combined efforts of KARM, the salvation army, and volunteer ministries among others provide enough support to actually bring a large homeless population to the city. i believe to that this is something knoxvillians can be proud of, to some extent. many cities ignore or to even make homelessness virtually illegal.

however, it is clear that efforts to provide long-term support are lacking. while there is a significant amount of subsidized housing throughout the city, even residence there is difficult to obtain if you're trying to get off the street.

i have to plead ignorance to current programs aimed at getting people into permanent housing or efforts to help them become self-sufficient. i know there is an old school on 5th ave. that is solely for adult education, but that's about it.

does anyone else know of any city or private efforts to get people into homes? this is a very important question. like the previous poster noted, while it's important to provide for immediate needs, we really should be focusing on training the impoverished for the long run.

ck said...

my mom, who is in the mental health business, told me about studies that linked the mass closing down state mental institutions in the 70s and the rise in homelessness in the past 30 years. many of the people are out on the street because they don't have the mental capacity to take care of themselves. as a counterpoint to the two comments above, yes teach a man to fish but also take the man, who is so schizophrenic that he's talking to the fish, and put him in a safe environment (which means the government will need to pony up again to take care of the mentally ill- counterpoint #2). while this doesn't address all homelessness, it would help significantly reduce it.

Mickey said...

That's a tough one.

So how is your bid for public office coming along?

SM said...

for a good start on the topic, see:

the value of the plain said...

You might be interested in these two websites. Common ground is a phenomenal program based in New York that has developed a template for "curing" homelessness while taking into account mental and physical illness, addiction, unemployment, and families. They develop abandoned hotels and apartment buildings into mixed residential facilities. The range of rooms and apartments accommodates everyone from the long-term homeless to students to young professionals who have never been homeless. Their view is that if all homeless people live together the area becomes "that part of town" i.e. our 100 block of Gay. If you develop a "community building" that encourages many kinds of people to live there it will become part of the greater community of the city. Most of their funding comes from private donations and government grants; although, some of their mixed use buildings are beginning to generate some revenue. They have been consulting with other smaller cities in an effort to modify their "homelessness fix" template for each city. They have a lot of good nuts and bolts ideas about how to get a variety of people to willingly live together. It has been wildly successful in New York and some other bigger cities. They, at one time, came to Knoxville to provide their point of view and recommendations. The founder has also lectured at the UT architecture school. The second link is "Knoxville's Plan".