Housing solves homelessness

Sandra ClarkEast Knox, Our Town Neighbors

Great program Monday at Town Hall East. A panel spoke on Knoxville homelessness: Causes, complications and solutions.

Shawn Griffith is the city’s go-to guy on the topic. He quoted Police Chief Paul Noel who says, “We can’t arrest ourselves out of homelessness.” Griffith said: “Housing solves homelessness.”

The recent surge in property values has pushed previously housed people into the streets. Renters account for 34% of the state’s total households. That’s a bit higher in Knox County – 36%. “And every time rent increases by $100/month, that means a 9% increase in our homeless population,” Griffith said.

Low-wage earners are hardest hit. To keep housing costs at 30% or less of income:

  • A minimum wage ($7.25/hour) worker could afford monthly rent of $377.
  • A worker at Knoxville’s estimated mean renter wage ($14.05/hour) could afford rent of $730.
  • A person on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at $794/month could afford rent of $238/month.

This chart demonstrates “affordable housing.” People ask what that means, Griffith said, but what’s affordable for you depends on how much you earn.

Much more information was presented and spirited Q&A sparked emotions ranging from anger to fear. Tomorrow we’ll hear from KPD Sgt. Thomas Clinton. He oversees the city’s law enforcement response to homelessness. His department? Himself and one officer.


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