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The number of Knoxville residents who are homeless for the first time decreased by 14 percent last year, according to a UT study released this week.

Agencies serving the homeless, however, have seen a 4 percent increase in the number of active clients who receive services, according to the report prepared by members of the Knoxville Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS). The system is housed in the UT College of Social Work.

“That can be a function of having more agencies that are reporting the data to HMIS and the fact that we’re doing a better job of capturing services delivered and individuals being served,” said David A. Patterson, a UT professor of social work and director of KnoxHMIS.

KnoxHMIS data analyst Lisa Higginbotham and graduate intern Jayme Hogan-Yarbro prepared the report.

The study, conducted in partnership with the Knoxville/Knox County Homeless Coalition, is an annual examination of population demographics and services. The information management system measures the effectiveness of agency efforts to house and serve area homeless individuals and families.

Last year, the study found that agencies served 9,388 individuals and families, 7,773 of whom were homeless. The total number includes people who are currently homeless, those who were at risk of being homeless and had received homeless prevention services, and those who were formerly homeless and now have permanent housing.

In 2012, 561 individuals out of the 7,773 who were homeless were placed in permanent housing, according to the report.

“The challenging part is that the 561 represents only a small percent of those who were homeless, so we need to do more,” Patterson said.

Since September 2009, homeless prevention and rapid rehousing programs in Knox County have moved 91 percent of clients into permanent homes, Patterson said.

“What that means is that the work toward preventing homelessness is being effective,” he said. “Those programs are finding people who are at risk of homelessness or falling into homelessness and are housing them.”

Other findings in the report include:

  • Since July 2008, 3,973 people have been placed in permanent housing.
  • The average length of stay in an emergency shelter was thirty-two days and the average length of stay in transitional housing was 167 days.
  • A total of 78 percent of the homeless people served are from Knox County and surrounding counties—contrary to an often-stated belief that most homeless individuals come to Knoxville from other states.
  • The demographic profile of the homeless population in Knoxville and Knox County is reflective of national demographic data published in the Housing and Urban Development Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress.

To read the entire report, visit the KnoxHMIS website.

KnoxHMIS began operations in 2004, enabling agencies to collect and share demographic information in order to reduce duplication of services and conserve scarce community resources. Now, the homeless management information system—which has captured data on more than 30,000 unique people—provides up-to-the-minute information, such as how many people were housed in transitional housing the previous night.

The KnoxHMIS annual reports have been issued since 2007.


Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lalapo@utk.edu)