Homelessness is not a unique problem to Kingsport. Cities across the nation, big and small, are tackling this very issue and have been for some time. There is no easy answer — or it would already have been done!
As former city manager Jeff Fleming once said, homelessness is a conflict where your head feels one thing and your heart feels another. There seems to be this struggle between helping those who need help and protecting our neighborhoods from those who might cause harm.
Let’s not lump all homeless people into one category, though. That’s not fair or accurate. We have good people down on their luck. We have those who need a little extra time. We have those who need mental health services. And we also have some who are making our community unsafe through criminal activity.
At our last meeting, several citizens and business owners spoke to us about their own personal issues. We heard both sides: those who think the city is awful for adding blocks to benches, and those who thanked the city for it. Again, there is no easy answer. Downtown businesses and residents have been begging for action. So, how do we move forward?
Chris McCartt, our city manager, has a plan. Homelessness is a multifaceted issue and will take time. He is working on three steps to get organized:
1. Survey existing agencies that provide services.
2. Form the homelessness coalition.
3. Develop a comprehensive action plan.
Thank you to those willing to get involved. If you want to help directly, you can visit volunteerkingsport.org to find opportunities. The Commission would like to hear from you if you have any thoughts on what we can do. You can reach us at one of our meetings or by email, both listed below.
Kingsport is good at partnerships. Let’s go tackle this one together for the improvement of all!
Join Us for a Meeting
The Neighborhood Commission normally meets the last Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at City Hall in the Council Room on the second floor. This month that falls on Halloween, so we have moved it up a week to Oct. 24. We’d love for you to join us!
If you prefer to send us a suggestion, concern or praise, please email us at KingsportNeighborhoods@gmail.com.
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Margot Seay is chair of the Kingsport Neighborhood Commission