Since 1985, Dr. Roger Nooe has volunteered his time and effort to describe the problems of area homelessness and to increase community awareness of the needs of these individuals. In 1985 the Mayor and County Executive asked Dr. Nooe to chair a newly appointed group of community representatives to examine area homelessness and make recommendations. Because the initial report in 1986 was so well received by governmental departments, social service agencies, and community groups, in the ensuing 15 years Dr. Nooe has conducted biennial surveys and smaller focused studies in alternate years.
These studies are among the most comprehensive surveys of homelessness undertaken for an area the size of Knoxville/Knox County – enumerating the number of individuals on the street during any given month, and describing demographics, causes of homelessness, health problems, substance abuse, employment and services needed. The findings of these studies are published and distributed (without charge) by the Knoxville Coalition for the Homeless. The data is used by agencies for reference and service planning and extensively in the HUD required consolidated plan and the community continuum of care. Students studying homelessness frequently use the report, according to city and university librarians.
Beyond the study, Dr. Nooe has volunteered his time to increasing community awareness of homelessness, sharing his finding and knowledge with service providers, and consulting with other communities. He has made approximately 200 presentations to classes, civic groups, churches, and also interviews on radio and television. He has provided in-service training to emergency shelter and social service agency staff and orientation for boards of directors of organizations serving the homeless.
Homelessness has continued to increase in East Tennessee as in other parts of the nation. Dr. Nooe’s efforts have provided the community knowledge of the problem, data for planning services, and enhanced involvement of community volunteers, all of which are crucial factors in addressing homelessness.
The studies conducted by Dr. Nooe have trained agency staff, students and community volunteers to participate as interviewers. For example, in 2000, 40 volunteers interviewed in emergency shelters and outdoors locations. In his presentations, Dr. Nooe encourages involvement through identifying opportunities to serve in shelters and other agencies. He has strongly advocated that we not ignore the homeless. The regular studies, the most recent being Homelessness in Knoxville and Knox County: 2000, reflect 15 years of ongoing involvement. Dr. Nooe is scheduled to release a 2002 report this summer.