Homeless Camps: How Safe Are They?

By: Whitney Daniel
By: Whitney Daniel

Knoxville (WVLT) - There is a homeless camp just feet away from where a man's body was found earlier this week.

Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel talked with a woman living there and has more.

Sunshine Singleton says she knew the man who died in the creek. She says he has epilepsy and had been missing for four days.

Although folks at Knox Area Rescue Ministries say help and shelter are just a short walk away, many homeless, like Singleton and her friends, say they prefer it their way.

Sunshine Singleton likes living outdoors and says she's set up camp here for three simple reasons.

"It's God's country, it's clean, free air. Three things: God, the Book, and open space," Singleton said.

She lives off the land and off others.

"Bunch of raman noodles we get out of the dumpster," Singleton said.

And she's even found a special friend.

"For me, it's a sanctuary because I don't get bothered," Singleton said.

But just this week, her safe haven became vulnerable.

"A dead body! Wouldn't that scare you? Next to my camp, right between ours?! And the smell," Singleton said.

That smell led Singleton's friend to find their buddy lying in the creek nearby.

"He's shaking like this. He says, 'I think I've found Billy Joe.' He says, 'I've got to call 911 now, this is my friend,'" Singleton said.

"The homeless problem in Knoxville is so much greater than the needs we can meet," Del McCartney from KARM said.

At Knox Area Rescue Ministries, they're trying to help.

"We get to as many as we can, and it's unfortunate you will have some fall through the cracks and you'll miss some," McCartney said. "We can encourage people to come in for the night, and we could have done that with this gentleman. Obviously, the decision to stay or leave falls with them."

KARM provides meals, beds and several programs to help the homeless get back on their feet.

"We can work through doctors and get their medications and get them stable and once they're stable, we can find a program to fit what their individual needs are," McCartney said.

But folks like Singleton say their needs are met by the freedoms they have and even with a deadly reminder of the dangers of living among the trees, she prefers it.

"My sanctuary I call it," Singleton said.

If you'd like to volunteer at KARM, you can call 673-6540. They're always looking for help.

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