Knoxville (WVLT) - Two crimes, an alleged rape and assault, are raising major questions about safety in some areas of Knoxville.
Police say the two incidents may be related. They happened near Grand Avenue in downtown Knoxville. That area is in the same vicinity as one of the city's known homeless camps.
"I know there are people who prefer to be outside the walls living underneath the stars, but it pours the rain, it gets hot, it gets cold, and people freeze to death in those camps," David Lay says.
Homeless camps are scattered throughout Knox County...
Mostly, they're found along the tracks... or near railroad yards off Baxter Avenue. They're located in rural areas of the county and you'll find some in West Knoxville... we tried to talk with some, but many didn't want to tell us about the camps... or exactly where they're located... for fear of retaliation from peers or action by authorities to move.
But some have found hope at Knox Area Rescue Ministries -- a group trying to bring folks off the street into a safe haven.
"Anything that you can think of that's bad can happen in one of those camps," Lay says.
That's why David Lay and the folks at 'KARM' are reaching out to the homeless...
"We offer them a meal or clothing or some other services that they may need and use that to try to establish a relationship with them," Lay continues.
The folks at the Ministries hope that relationship will help lead any troubled souls to the Lord.
"These are people who are made in the image of God who have human needs and many of them are hurting people," Lay says.
But sometimes, they can hurt themselves or others. Lay says many who live in the camps don't want to come to the shelter because they don't like rules...
"That's good as far as it goes, but if you're out of control yourself, it doesn't take long to figure out that the society that you're part of gets out of control," Lay says.
The presence of anything from drug-use to stabbings are very real in the world of the homeless.
"In dealing with the homeless, you need to be cautious... but at the same time you need to be compassionate because after all, that's what Jesus would do," Lay says.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday, 'KARM' hands out resources to the area's homeless...they meet outside the shelter under the bridge on Broadway. And of course, 'KARM' invites anyone seeking sheltor to come in for a hot meal and an overnight rest any day of the week.