By Steve Hunley

Knoxville has more subsidized housing than any other city of its size in the entire country. Yet the City of Knoxville continues to spend and talk about “affordable” housing when it means subsidized housing. City Councilwoman Amelia Parker recently declared there’s a need to create a “safe space” for homeless people to live out-of-doors. Parker pointed out there were those among the “houseless” who would prefer to live outdoors and it is incumbent upon the city government to find an appropriate spot for them. It was Amelia Parker who dictated a story to an all-too-willing Knoxville News-Sentinel about her death-defying encounter with two police officers who were at a homeless encampment in South Knoxville. Parker described how she was terrified, clutching her city council ID card like Wonder Woman’s shield, as she claimed she feared being summarily killed by the white officers. Amelia has a talent for telling stories that all have several things in common; she is always the heroine in her own stories and she is always quite nearly paralyzed with terror. And best of all, her tales of terror end up in local news media.

The point being how does someone who has little to no use for the police department and police officers propose to create a “safe space” for those homeless folks who enjoy living outside in the elements? Safe for whom? The very idea of leaving the homeless to roam all over the city and occupy some space simply designated to be “safe” yet protected by no one seems nonsensical. Clearly, the time has long since passed when the issue of homelessness needs to be solved.

The City of Knoxville is primarily responsible for three services: garbage is contracted out and they provide police and fire protection, yet the supposedly superbly well-managed city government has been spending more than it has been taking in for a while. The city raises taxes every 3 – 4 years to pay for the pensions of retired employees and pay for its burgeoning social welfare program. Kincannon and the majority of the city council raised taxes 21% just a month ago in the middle of the highest inflation in 40 years and in the face of a possible recession.

Looking to a city government to provide a “safe space” for those homeless people who prefer outdoor living seems like a mighty big task for a mayor who pulled the police officers out of schools within the city limits. In spite of the fact Knoxville has more “affordable” (subsidized) housing than any other city of its size in the country, the city continues to spend beyond its means for housing and other social programs. To use a favorite word of the Left, it is not a sustainable policy.

Nor will it solve the homelessness problem. Cameron Brooks, a realtor running for the city council next year, has touted the idea of taking part of the tax dollars earmarked for the housing program to purchase and rehab homes to be sold to people who could not otherwise afford a home. Too many working and middle-class people are being squeezed out of the housing market presently. It is a really good idea as it not only restores homes inside the city but also gives working people the opportunity to enjoy home ownership and the money returned to the fund to repeat the process. The homeowners, unlike those living in subsidized housing, would be paying property taxes. The plan is sound, logical and helpful. One would think that the very thing our officeholders should be promoting, but the idea won’t likely be popular with those on the Left. They prefer subsidizing folks who don’t pay the property taxes they enjoy jacking up regularly. Yet it is not only a viable solution to a growing problem but a really good solution.

So, too, should city leaders work together with county leaders to consider building a mental health facility to treat those homeless people who have no place to go and suffering from mental illness. How many of the homeless population are suffering from mental issues I don’t know, but simply driving up and down Broadway, I have a suspicion it’s a pretty large number.

The State of Tennessee has just outlawed living in public spaces outside. And while I don’t doubt city leaders will try and ignore state law, it’s not likely going to take the legislature long to figure out it should draft and pass a law to remove from office those county and municipal officeholders who refuse to obey state law.

It’s long past time when the city ought to approach the county and both governments work together to build a mental health facility to house and treat those homeless people suffering from mental illness. That not only protects the people of our community, but also those suffering from mental illness. The county and city governments could also approach our legislative delegation to see if there is not some state assistance to build such a facility.

One would think those boosters of the taxpayers paying for stadiums for private business would all be on board to build a mental health facility to protect and serve an entire community.

If the city government were to round up the homeless folks on buses and bus them down to Lakeshore Park instead of some scruffy location in South or East Knoxville, how long do you suppose it would be before folks in West Knoxville were on the warpath? My guess is it wouldn’t take long at all.

There have been more than a few people who have complained about the homeless congregating downtown. That certainly doesn’t help business and whether the Left in Knoxville wishes to admit it or not, but businesses pay the bulk of the property and sales taxes that keep the government running. When folks stop coming into businesses, it’s over. There is already a fetid smell of garbage and urine hovering over downtown and that’s not good for business. Nor is it fair to any person. It’s long past time to build what we all know should be built and operated.