The Knoxville Police Department is encouraging people to help the city's homeless -- but to also ensure they are helping in the most meaningful and effective ways.

KPD posted a photo of clothes and goods strewn about the street recently -- saying this is not the way to do it. 

KPD homeless
KPD

"For one, this is ineffective, inefficient and fails to get these resources where they are most critically needed. Secondly, this is aggravated littering, obstructs the sidewalk and roadway and creates an undue amount of work for our service department to clean up," KPD said. 

KPD officer Thomas Clinton said officers are working with the homeless to try and help them find services that can help them in the long-term.

"Folks will come down and think, 'We're gonna feed the homeless.' I know that's well-intentioned, it's great, but it helps them for an hour. We need to help them long-term," he said.

Volunteer Ministry Center CEO Bruce Spangler said donating to the organizations tasked with helping the homeless is the most effective solution.

"If you just provide food, clothing, those kinds of things, you're responding to the humanitarian need, but you're not responding to the experience of homelessness," Spangler said. "Housing always has to be part of it."

When the homeless reach out to organizations like VMC for help, they make a connection that could help them find permanent housing.

"That's the best way ... We as agencies are vetting the need and verifying the request," Spangler said. "You know that your donation is doing the best thing at the right time."

KPD said the best recommendation for folks looking for suggestions and ways to help is to call the 211 helpline.

It also encourages people to call the many local nonprofits in the area that provide outreach services, such as the Volunteer Ministry Center, KARM, or the Salvation Army. 

RELATED: KARM gives hundreds a meal, a phone call and internet access for Thanksgiving

RELATED: KARM extends 'Coats for the Cold' deadline through Saturday

"Again, we want and encourage everyone to help the homeless here in Knoxville. But let’s do it in the best way possible by utilizing the local nonprofits whose mission is to deliver services daily to persons experiencing homelessness here in Knoxville."

RELATED: Out of the Shadows: Hope on the Streets | Knoxville's homeless

RELATED: First Baptist Church in Maryville opening warming shelter to help those in need

RELATED: Care Cuts gives free haircuts to homeless