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KPD Chief Quillin talks about the homeless problem

Staff • Dec 29, 2018 at 3:00 PM

KINGSPORT — The Times News asked Police Chief David Quillin for his thoughts on the city’s homeless problem. This is what he told us.

BEING HOMELESS IS NOT A CRIME

“Proper hygiene and a permanent address are not prerequisites for sitting on a park bench or walking down a city sidewalk.”

BUT THERE ARE SOME CRIMES ASSOCIATED WITH HOMELESSNESS

“Lewd behavior and disorderly conduct are two examples, and, yes, the police department absolutely addresses those types of activities in the appropriate fashion.”

AND CERTAIN CONDITIONS ARE OFTEN PRESENT

“It is important to keep in mind that within the homeless community there are addiction issues and oftentimes mental health issues. It’s also important to know that there is a certain segment of the homeless that choose to live that particular lifestyle and that is their right.”

HOMELESSNESS IS EVERYONE’S PROBLEM

“Who is responsible for responding to the homelessness-type issues? The police? Social services? Mental health providers? All of the above? Homelessness is a communitywide issue that is often punted to the police to solve. This is true, I suspect, because the police are easily accessible and we are the only ones that answer the phone 24/7/365.”

POLICE ARE CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE

“This oftentimes leads to the perception that the police own the problem of homelessness. This perception puts police chiefs and officers in a difficult spot. We feel caught between citizens demanding action and the homeless who are vulnerable and have very few options.”

FOLKS ARE LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS

“I know there are local groups that have an interest in this issue and are working diligently to come up with solutions.

“Our problems are not unique. Cities, both large and small, are experiencing the exact same issues. In my opinion, the fix can’t be a temporary Band-Aid. Bottom line — we can’t ‘police’ our way out of this issue. There needs to be a coordinated and comprehensive effort to provide resources and stability for these individuals so they can get back on their feet.”

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