The Daily Pulse:

Mayor Hopeful that Council Will Adopt Homelessness Plan

Mayor Madeline Rogero says she's hopeful that the City Council will adopt the city's new plan to address homelessness after a Council workshop on the plan Thursday night. This was the Council's opportunity to ask questions about the plan before it's considered for adoption by the Council.

"What I'm hearing is good support from our partners, from Council, and from the community," she said. "I am hopeful, and based on Council's responses, I think they will be very supportive of it."

Michael Dunthorn, who's in charge of the city's office on homelessness was equally optimistic, and said he hadn't heard anything from Council "I hadn't anticipated."

"I appreciated the positive responses from Council members. Assuming they're of the same frame of mind...we'll all sort of have a good starting point."

After Dunthorn reviewed the highlights of the new plan, most Council members chimed in with positive feedback, and just a few questions on the "hows" of the plan. 

Councilman Nick Della Volpe was the first to speak among Council members, and after commending Dunthorn, and the Mayor's Roundtable on Homelessness for their work on the plan, asked just how much this plan would cost the city. 

"This is not something [where] the city will fund the entire plan," Rogero explained. "The adoption of this plan does not require us to fund a specific amount for a specific program at this time. But it leads us as we analyze what are we able to do from city government, and where we would focus our resources if we were to put in additional dollars. This is how I would make that decision and put that recommendation to you all in the budget."

Council member Duane Grieve asked for a rundown on what the city currently spends on homelessness projects.

Rogero explained that since stimulus funding ended, there will be significantly less federal funding coming the city's way, and the federal Emergency Solution Grant that the city had received directly (typically about $130,000) will now go directly to the state of Tennessee, and the city will have to apply for funds. 

"We, of course will [apply]. We're not sure if we'll get the whole $130,000. We anticipate less than that from the state. And there will probably be a six-month delay. So that's unfortunate news," she said.

Aside from that grant, the city spends about $125,000 for case management services at four Knoxville Community Development Corporation high rises that help prevent homelessness among certain populations living in those apartments; $50,000 is contributed to both Flenniken Landing and Minvilla Manor; and $100,000 goes to support the staff of the office on homelessness. All of that money comes from the city's general fund. The city also distributes $1.3 million in federal funds on behalf of the Continuum of Care program (which supports homelessness projects and agencies). 

The Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness (which was killed in 2011, in part by former Mayor Dan Brown) wasn't mentioned by name, though it was referenced by Dunthorn and a couple Council members.

"All the stakeholders seem to be buying in," Council member Brenda Palmer noted. "This process this time is a real step forward."

Though only one member of the public spoke at the workshop (Vivian Shipe, who said "we really need to get some structure and some direction and some collaboration with the faith based organizations. [And] not just always the ones that are already doing [projects]. Let's go out and get some of the other organizations.".), Dunthorn said the public comment period had brought up a few points "that really should've been in [the plan]." 

Emphasizing access to transit, and how to get homeless people with pets into permanent housing that might not allow pets were two points brought to Dunthorn's attention.

"There are some people who--the only thing they have in the world is their pet. And if you're going to go into some type of housing or program or shelter, they're going to tell you, 'you can't have your pet.' And so they don't go. I don't know how you solve that, but that shouldn't be a barrier in ending homelessness."

But the point that clearly hit home with Dunthorn was the suggestion to work with active military groups to identify servicemen and women who are at risk for homelessness after they're discharged. 

"That, actually, to me was a lightbulb [turning on]. Let's get upstream and prevent people from sliding downhill after the military," Dunthorn said.

Rogero said the homelessness plan will be on City Council's April 1 agenda.



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