KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville Police Department Chief Paul Noel acknowledges that homelessness is an issue in Knox County.
"Homelessness is a challenge for us and it's not just downtown," Noel said while visiting the 10News studio. "It's really in every segment of our community—north, south, east and west. It's something that KPD is taking a really hard look at."
KPD recently partnered with the Helen Ross McNabb Center to create a co-responder program. When a situation arises that involves someone who is homeless, a social worker will respond alongside an officer.
"Officers are also crisis-intervention trained. So, what we really try to do is get a resolution to the incident in the best way possible," Noel said.
Noel said that the program with the McNabb Center has worked well so far.
"We know we can not arrest our way out of the problem. That doesn't mean we don't arrest when we have to, but the ultimate goal is to change behavior and get people help," Noel said.
The biggest way to help the homeless population as a citizen is to support service providers like the McNabb Center, according to Noel.
"There are many service providers out there that are really trying to do some tough work and change behaviors," Noel said. "We ask that you don't give money to people on the streets—especially at on-ramps and off-ramps. That money is much better served and directed by going to those service providers."
Noel recently came to KPD from the New Orleans Police Department. He said that NOPD did play a role in working with the homeless population, but that it was really driven by the New Orleans Health Department.
"I think there are a lot of similarities that we can implement here. I know that Mayor Kincannon has a whole team that is looking at this right now and I believe they are going to be partnering with the county soon to implement some best practices here in Knoxville," Noel said.
Noel appears on WBIR once a month to talk about police matters relevant to the community. He'll be back on in January.