KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- The topic of homelessness once again dominated Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull’s quarterly Town Hall.
During the three hour event at Colonial Heights Middle School, Shull listened and responded to varying concerns from community members. While topics such as paving and code enforcement were also discussed, the conversation always seemed to circle back to homelessness.
“I think one of the benefits of having a town hall meeting is you see that people have different opinions about things, and that’s okay,” Shull told the crowd.
Numerous opinions were on display as residents shared concerns about Kingsport’s homeless population with the mayor.
“If we can take care of this criminal activity, we can help our homeless,” one speaker said.
“We have these big expensive apartments. Does Kingsport have a plan to try to give more homes to the homeless?” another asked the mayor.
“I think that there’s more we can do instead of judging,” one woman said.
“The City hasn’t failed us. We as a community have failed each other,” one man told the crowd. “And quit blaming the mayor, the city manager, this organization. How many of you get out and see what it’s like?”
Many community members made it clear – they want to be part of the solution.
“What can me, and my friends, and people here who care – what can we do to partner with the city to help be a solution rather than part of the problem?” one woman asked.
Shull highlighted the City’s new partnership with the United Way of Greater Kingsport in forming a homeless coalition and hiring social workers.
City Manager Chris McCartt also responded to concerns about creating more affordable housing.
“[Another thing] we think the coalition needs to be working towards, and that’s how do we identify housing?” McCartt said. “How do we identify that on short term, long term, temporary, whatever that case may be.”
Shull said finding proper solutions to homelessness issues could take years, and decisions could ultimately lie with Kingsport taxpayers.
“People have suggested to me offhand that maybe the City ought to spend millions of dollars on the homeless situation,” Shull said. “That’s a whole other thing. You’re talking about raising the tax rate, taking on a new mission. I don’t think the majority of citizens are for that.”