The City of Knoxville is working with community partners to establish a shelter space for homeless persons who have been tested for COVID-19.
The City has been working with service providers and the Knox County Health Department to identify a space, social supports and medical management for a safe, operational space.
Mayor Indya Kincannon said, “It’s important to note there are no confirmed cases in the homeless community right now in Knoxville, but we felt it was vitally important to have a designated place for those showing symptoms. We are pleased so many community partners are joining forces to help open this shelter.”
The Metro Drug Coalition is providing their building on West 5th Avenue for shelter space, which will be called “The Guest House.” This building is the future home of the Gateway Recovery Community Center and has enough space to accommodate 18 people, following appropriate social distancing and infection control guidelines.
Metro Drug Coalition Executive Director Karen Pershing said, “Metro Drug Coalition is extremely concerned about the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable populations in our community. The social service agencies have been working collaboratively to identify how to best continue services, while adhering to CDC guidelines. The homeless population is one of the most challenging and MDC has a vacant building near the homeless corridor that we believe can help fill a critical gap in preventing the spread of COVID-19 among this population by offering the space to our homeless service providers. All available resources need to be utilized in times like these.”
Volunteer Ministry Center is gearing up to provide 24-hour onsite management of The Guest House and many other social service providers have stepped up to help support this effort. KARM, the Knox Baptist Association, United Way, Next Step Initiative, CAC, Angelic Ministries and others have offered resources including food delivery, portable shower and laundry facilities.
The City will provide up to $95,000 to operate the shelter over the next 2 months and referrals will come from physicians, hospitals and the health department.
This pandemic highlights the need for a housing first model to address the issue of homelessness in our community and the City will continue to work with our partners on strategies like permanent supportive housing, along with continued use of our Affordable Housing Rental Development Fund to ensure adequate housing for everyone in our community.