Knoxville looks to partner with Volunteer Ministry Center for new homeless shelter

Sean Franklin # State

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Volunteer Ministry Center plans to renovate the old Salvation Army Thrift Store building and it's hoping the city of Knoxville will consider helping pay for the new kind of homeless shelter.

The building on Broadway hasn't been the Salvation Army Thrift Store for a while.

"Meet them where they're at,"
Knoxville City Council member Lauren Rider said.

Rider said the proposed shelter will be the next piece in helping the homeless.

"The goal is to get them into some kind of long-term recovery and get them connected with services,"
Rider said.

It will cost the city $245,000 in assistance.

Rider said since the city created a day space under the I-40 bridge over Broadway, businesses in her district have seen more of the displaced homeless around town.

"They're camping on door stoops, in parking lots, some of them will get up and move before the business day starts,"
Rider said.
"Some of them leave their bedding."

VMC CEO Bruce Spangler wants to address that problem.

He said what they call a "low-barrier shelter" just means there won't be as many limitations on who can use it.

So the shelter will allow people who abuse alcohol or drugs, under certain conditions.

The shelter will only allow people referred by Street Outreach Workers at places like Helen Ross-McNabb and the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee.

He said those in the shelter must be actively working to find a permanent home.

Rider said the shelter will start to address a larger problem: Mental health treatment.

"Until we address as a community, as a culture, as a country, how we're going to expand mental healthcare for those who need it,"
Rider said.
"We've seen a steady rise in those who are lacking access to those resources."