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"What a blemish on our city" | KARM CEO speaks out on homelessness and drug use, demands more from law enforcement

KARM leaders said that they've been working to help people experiencing homelessness for nearly 20 years, but problems persist.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The CEO of a well-known nonprofit organization providing temporary shelters, food and other programs said more needs to be done to stop cycles of homelessness.

Knox Area Rescue Ministries is a faith-based organization established in Knoxville, intervening with faith-based programs to break cycles of homelessness. They organize several programs meant to help people overcome problems that could contribute to homelessness.

Yet Burt Rosen, the CEO of the organization, said there isn't enough being done.

"At all hours I see people strewn across the sidewalks," he said on social media. "Overdoses outside our doors are common. What occurs daily on Broadway has spread toward Fountain City, Gay Street and South Knoxville."

In the post, he shared photos of people sleeping on sidewalks, with one person laying flat on the floor. He also said he routinely sees people inject what he believes are drugs, but information confirming his claims was not immediately available.

"Our hands are somewhat tied as we have no jurisdiction on city property," he said in the post. "Law enforcement officers are responsive and we could not be more grateful. Yet there are not enough of them to respond quickly to the seemingly endless area demands... What a blemish on our city."

He says that although KARM has spent around 20 years trying to help people break cycles of homelessness, problems persist. He called for law enforcement and the district attorney to get more involved and take action against problems causing people to experience homelessness.

However, he did not specifically say what actions he would want to see from law enforcement. Some community groups have already taken direct action to help others address problems like substance abuse, intervening with trauma-informed practices and overdose-reversing resources like Naloxone so people do not lose their lives while homeless.

"What's grown worse over the last couple of years is the number of drug overdoses, the number of used syringes and drug vials that we're seeing out there in the streets," Rosen said.

He called for something to be done before construction finishes on Broadway.

"Something different is not just making permanent supportive housing the only viable solution for which we throw money at," he said. "But we need to get law enforcement involved, we need to get the district attorney involved."

Michael Dunthorn, Knoxville's Homeless Program Coordinator, said that city leaders are concerned about problems contributing to homelessness too.

"I know we're all frustrated with these issues," he said. "It would be nice if we could solve it tomorrow. We want to attack this right here before it goes even further."

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