Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE — Homelessness remains a major community problem in Knoxville and Knox County, according to a report issued last week by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Social Work.

The report is an annual product of the Knoxville Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS), a state-of-the-art web-based database application for the collection and reporting of data on homeless individuals and families in the area. This community outreach research endeavor of the UT College of Social Work provides an examination of individuals experiencing homelessness in Knox County.

Social work professor David Patterson serves as director and principal investigator on KnoxHMIS and authored the report.

“This report demonstrates the ongoing significant problems faced in the Knoxville and Knox County communities in addressing the persistence of homelessness,” Patterson said. “This kind of information will help inform the emergence of the communities’ ongoing discussion about this issue and will help us think through how we can effectively address it.”

Some of the more notable trends that Patterson calls attention to is the prevalence of female-headed households among the homeless and the presence of children in homeless households. He also notes that 41 percent of clients actively seeking services have a disability.

“Homelessness is best understood as a phenomenon resulting from a complex interaction of individual factors, structural/economic forces, and environmental circumstances. The trends reported in this report evidence this interactive effect,” he said.

The KnoxHMIS database began in November 2004 and now contains information on 23,000 unique individuals who have sought services for homelessness in this community. This year’s KnoxHMIS report looks specifically at the 7,089 individuals who have sought services during 2010.

The report shows there was a 28 percent rise in the number of people actively seeking services for homelessness in the past year. “Contrary to the often-stated belief that homeless individuals come to Knoxville from elsewhere, our data shows that the majority (60 percent) are from Knox County and the vast majority (89 percent) are from Knox County and the surrounding eight counties,” Patterson said.

Twenty percent of homeless individuals seeking services met criteria for being chronically homeless, meaning that they have a disabling condition and have been homeless for more than one year or have been homeless three times or more in the past four years.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Of the 7,089 individuals in 2010 who sought services from KnoxHMIS partner agencies, 4,394 sought services for the first time.
  • Since 2009, there has been an 18 percent increase in the number of new individuals entering homelessness.
  • On average, 1,566 individuals per month sought services from KnoxHMIS partner agencies.
  • Loss of job is the most frequently self-reported primary reason for homelessness among men.
  • For women, the most frequently self-reported primary reason for homelessness is domestic violence.
  • Since July 2008, 2,093 individuals experiencing homelessness have been housed.

The mission of KnoxHMIS is to improve service delivery to homeless persons through the implementation and management of this information system linking Knox area homeless service providers. In addition to this, KnoxHMIS serves as the primary source of real-time data on homelessness to our partner agencies, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, and the Mayor’s Office of the Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.

To view the report, visit

C O N T A C T :

David Patterson, (865-974-7511,

Kristi Hintz, UT media relations, (865-974-3993,