New system funded by city to aid homeless

By Mike Steely

Almost unnoticed in the Knoxville City Council agenda recently was a resolution that may play a big part in coordinating various programs to help the homeless in Knoxville.

An agreement with the University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work, requested by the Department of Community Development, will create a Coordinated Entry System for use by the city and various agencies and organizations to search out shelter and housing programs for individuals and families. The vote passed unanimously without discussion.

The College of Social Work at UT currently administers a project that operates an internet-based multi-agency data base. The new CES program will enhance that support for the city office. The city agreed to fund $90,450 which will mostly go toward staffing two new positions at UT that will create and facilitate the CES digital referral process.

Mike Dunthorn, coordinator of Knoxville’s Office of Homelessness, said the program will provide oversight for those who deal with the issue.

“This is the next level,” he said. He added the Coordinated Entry System will provide a database of  available services and keep track of the homeless and their needs. The new system would standardize the intake and referral procedure, look at primary needs, find vulnerability and locate housing when available.

The university will work with the City’s Homelessness Office to set metrics, review data to help the city in monitoring partner agencies and help implement the program.

UT will develop and maintain the software which will list by name the individuals for housing and service priorities and list multi-agency housing and service cases.

UT will also represent the CES through regular attendance and participation with the Mayor’s Roundtable on Homelessness as well as the Knoxville-Knox County Homeless Coalition.

Knoxville’s Community Development Dashboard on the internet shows 2,677 known homeless in the 3rd quarter of this year, up from 2,436 in the 2nd quarter. There were 934 new homeless in the 3rd quarter.

The most common cause of homelessness is mental and health issues, followed by lack of affordable housing, loss of a job, eviction and domestic violence.

“The Coordinated Entry System is a significant step forward in improving the delivery of services to individuals and families who are homeless,” Mayor Rogero said. “It also emphasizes proactive intervention to help at-risk families before they become homeless, which has long been a key part of our strategy.

“The CES will strengthen coordination between service providers. They will all be using the same new assessment tool, and sharing the information gathered, to identify and help those who are most vulnerable. We will be assured that those in the most acute crises will be the first to receive attention,” she said.

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