There is no known number of how many people in Knox County are homeless at any one time.
While there are several agencies who offer programs that are helpful to the homeless, few can say exactly which services are being most used by the homeless.
There are many causes for homelessness. It can be spurred by mental health issues, drug addiction, the loss of steady income or simply being underemployed, where wages earned still aren’t enough to cover housing and other needs. It can happen when the primary breadwinner of a household goes to jail, or while waiting for supplemental social security or disability to kick in.
But, without a number, it is difficult to identify this population and get them targeted, specialized help. With a number, funding goals can be set for how much is needed to provide everyone who is homeless with a warm place to sleep.
With a number, all of the many charities and non-profits can look into what services they provide that are utilized by the homeless, and package these services so that people trying to get back on their feet know right where to go for guidance and support.
A good place to get this count can start with the agencies that serve the homeless, with the data forwarded to a county office that tracks the numbers. This data could in turn go on to the state and national level, where a response — in terms of funding and support services — can be weighed. If nothing else, it would give the charities and non-profits toiling at the local level a better idea of what they are facing, and how they can best organize their resources to help.