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Homeless Woman Sitting on The Street Side Hopeless
Homeless Woman Sitting on The Street Side Hopeless

The Knoxville Homeless Management Information System (KnoxHMIS)’s newly released annual report—an overview of services delivered in 2018—shows a 3 percent increase in clients accessing services for the homeless. It also points to the three leading self-reported causes of homelessness: the inability to find affordable housing (26 percent), loss of job (23 percent), and substance use (9 percent).

“We cooperatively strive to collect information on individuals and families experiencing homeless, the services they receive, and the outcomes achieved in order to coordinate care, conserve resources, and shape public policy. The KnoxHMIS Annual Report reflects the community’s ongoing efforts to effectively address this complex social problem,” said David Patterson, who serves as director of KnoxHMIS. Patterson is also the director of UT’s College of Social Work’s clinical doctorate program and is the Cooper-Herron Endowed Professor in Mental Health Research and Practice.

In operation since 2004, KnoxHMIS is an integrated network of 20 Knoxville area social service agencies specializing in housing and homelessness assistance. Area service providers input data into the secure central information database.

“The KnoxHMIS 2018 Annual Report on Homelessness is the product of the collaborative efforts of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Social Work’s Office of Research and Public Service and our community partners,” Patterson said.

The annual report shows that, overall, 9,183 people accessed services in 2018, a 3 percent increase over 2017. Five-year trends on homelessness are included in the report.

Of those who accessed services in 2018, about 40 percent were new clients who had not accessed a KnoxHMIS agency prior to 2018. Most of them entered the system through emergency shelters.

Of the 9,183 total clients, about 86 percent were actually homeless. The others were in housing, but still at risk and receiving support services.

Of the new clients, 92 percent were actually homeless. The others were at risk of homelessness and had accessed homeless prevention and supportive services.

Most active clients are non-Hispanic (90 percent), white (61 percent), and between the ages of 25 and 55 (54 percent).

In 2018, the average age for all clients was 39. The peak age concentration for women experiencing homelessness is 38—15 years younger than 53, the peak age concentration for men.

In 2018, 64 percent of persons enrolled in housing programs exited to a positive housing destination, including owning, renting, moving into permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless, or staying with a family member or friend.

The report notes that 52 days is the average time it takes for the newly homeless individuals to secure one of these positive housing destinations.

The report also looked at several homeless subgroups. The percentages went up for families, the chronically homeless (homeless for at least 12 months or on four separate occasions in the last three years while struggling with a disabling condition), the street homeless (those living in places not meant for human habitation, such as camping or living in their car), and seniors (age 62 and older). The percentages decreased for unaccompanied youth and veterans.

The report notes that, in some cases, increases may be a reflection of improved outreach to bring more homeless people into the system as well as better data input into the KnoxHMIS database.

KnoxHMIS is funded by grants provided by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Knox County Community Development Block Grant, and the City of Knoxville.

Lisa Higginbotham is KnoxHMIS program manager and primary author of the report.

Read the 2018 KnoxHMIS Annual Report and find ongoing reporting about homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County on the KnoxHMIS website.

To access housing resources for housing and supportive services, see the online resource directory.


Amy Blakely, UT News and Information (865-974-5034,

Lisa Higginbotham, KnoxHMIS program manager (865-974-9142,