Homelessness is a disease that is present across the world and continues to infect each community every day. With inflation rates continuing to rise and wages staying put, it is continuing to become more difficult for
citizens to maintain housing. In Knoxville, a large portion of their Black community is living in poverty, with many wondering the streets.
With a total of 30,477 Black people in 2020, the Black poverty rate was at 32.4% , which was three times the percentage of white poverty. The community often struggles to find homes due to discrimination that has been set in place regarding financing homes and selling/renting.
Even though the Fair Housing Act was signed in 1968, Black homeownership rates remain the lowest of all racial groups in the country. Many also struggle with other problems that can lead to homelessness such as drug abuse, mental health issues, disability, unemployment, and other personal circumstances.
I recently had the chance to speak to a few people about their experience with being homeless in Knoxville and how they survive on the street.
First was a man who opted to stay anonymous and has been homeless for a month. He hangs around East Knoxville while working.
“I keep God first in everything that I do,” he said. “So as long as I wake up, I have a chance to get it right.”
When asked what brought him here, he explains how he isn’t originally from Knoxville and traveled with his former partner from Savannah, Georgia.
“I left Savannah to get away from the streets and selling drugs,” he said. “I’m 42 years old, and I don’t want to do that anymore since I’ve been through it.”
He told me how things were complicated in life, which led to him being homeless.
“I went through a separation and was evicted,” he explained. “I don’t have any family or loved ones here to support me, so I was put out.”
He also explains how he still works and keeps his faith in God despite his challenges and how this motivates him to keep going. He stays productive by distributing tablets at local stores in Knoxville.
“I always like to do something positive instead of laying around waiting for somebody,” he said. “I’m not waiting around to get high or to drink, I just want to work. I like to tell people life is jungle, you have to become a lion.”
Next, I spoke with Anthony Brebson, who was born and raised here in Knoxville.
When Anthony was asked about how he became homeless, he didn’t know how to answer.
“I mean I don’t really know,” he said. “Doing the wrong things, making the wrong decisions, and not taking all of the opportunities I could’ve played a role, but I don’t know what led to it.”
He explains how he’s been homeless since he was 18 years old and doesn’t have any support on the streets.
“Every day is hard out here,” he explains. “I’m 35 years old and every day I find out is harder than the next.”
He also talks about drugs have been around for most of his life, so it wasn’t hard for him to start using.
“My parents and some of my family members were addicted to substances, so I’ve always had them nearby.”
Anthony also mentions that keeping his faith in God has gotten him through the rough times on the streets of Knoxville.
“I always have to put God first in anything I do since he’s kept me alive.”
Even though these men are facing daily challenges with homelessness, they still manage to hope for a better tomorrow and keep their faith in God strong. These two men were some of the many that were wandering the street in East Knoxville in need of a home, but what can be done to help them?
There are many places to donate for homeless people in Knoxville, including Care Cuts, which goes towards providing meals, haircuts, and optical testing for the homeless community. United Way also provides funds and supporting programs that provide solutions in Knoxville, and Knox Area Rescue Ministries provides safe places to stay, hot meals, and help with getting back on track. These organizations have helped many homeless people in need and plan to help many more. Donating to them in anyway can help them to achieve their goal.