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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

At Shelter’s Edge: The Reality of Homelessness in Knoxville

David A. Patterson, Professor and Director of KnoxHMISCollege of Social Work

UT’s commitment to its land-grant mission of serving the public good finds one manifestation in the Knoxville Homeless Management Information (KnoxHMIS), a unique community engagement endeavor to measure, understand, and respond at a local and national level to the complexity and tragedy of homelessness. KnoxHMIS deploys a secure, online database linked to local homeless service providers to create an empirical window into the experience of homelessness. Since November 2004, more than 28,000 unique individuals have sought services for current or imminent homelessness from homeless service providers in Knoxville and Knox County. More than 7,300 individuals and family members received services during 2011. This presentation focuses on the magnitude, scope, and complexity of homelessness in our area. Homelessness is best understood as the result of a complex interaction of individual factors, structural and economic forces, and environmental circumstances. Measurement of the prevalence, persistence, and multifaceted variations of homelessness in this community informs agency interventions and community policy decisions.

Note: Photograph used with permission Knox County Public Defenders Community Law Office. Photographer: I. Merkle​

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