May 16, 2007 - Knoxville Mayor Bill
Haslam and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale announced today that
they have appointed Jon Lawler as the new director of the Knoxville/Knox
County Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.
Lawler, who is currently a vice president at the real estate and
development firm of Lawler-Wood, has run a construction company,
been a church pastor and worked in community development during
He will begin work in his new role on June 1.
He replaces Dr. Roger M. Nooe, a retired University of Tennessee
professor and former associate dean of UT's College of Social Work.
Nooe was instrumental in developing the Ten-Year Plan and agreed
last year to direct it through the early stages.
Both Ragsdale and Haslam said Lawler is an ideal choice to take
over as director of the program.
"We've been looking for someone for a long time," Haslam
said, "and we are very excited to have someone with Jon's background
and capabilities come in to continue the progress that is being
made on the 10-year plan."
Mayor Ragsdale agreed, "Jon Lawler is an outstanding choice
to continue implementing the ten-year plan to end chronic homelessness."
"His leadership skills, his record of community service and
most of all, his caring heart will all help ensure that Dr. Nooe's
Haslam said the mayors had been looking for a highly capable individual
looking to do something different in his or her life.
Lawler, who had just completed a series of projects involving
rehabbing affordable housing for families and the elderly, turned
out to be a perfect fit.
"I think this is a great opportunity," he said.
Lawler, 43, said he was looking to do something different.
"I began asking myself what is going on in the city where
I could do something to make a difference," he said, "something
that would have a positive impact on Knoxville."
He said his background in building subsidized housing, in community
development and his contacts with the faith-based community "kind
of made the stars line up and made it a good fit."
Lawler has a bachelor's degree in mathematics and history from
Vanderbilt University, a master's degree in New Testament Theology
from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and an MBA, with a
concentration in finance, from the University of Tennessee.
He'll take over a program that has made solid progress in just
a year, but also has a long way to go to achieve its goals.
Nooe, a highly regarded expert on homelessness, has studied the
issue for two decades and has released a series of biennial studies,
beginning in 1986, detailing the homeless situation in Knoxville
and Knox County.
Named as director in May of 2006, he has guided the Ten-Year Plan
through a successful first year. Mike Dunthorn, with the city's
Community Development Division, is also heavily involved in the
"We couldn't have found anyone better than Dr. Nooe to help
us get started on the path toward achieving our goals," Haslam
said. "He's done a great job."
But Nooe, 66, who retired from UT in 2005 told the mayors he only
wanted to serve for a year to get the program kicked off.
"I'm just delighted someone with Jon's credentials and background
has signed on and I think it's a great fit," said Nooe, who
will continue to help with the plan.
The Ten-Year Plan, created in 2005, is an effort to coordinate
the work of various agencies helping the homeless with the aim being
to maximize all the different groups resources.
It involves government, non-profit and faith-based organizations
that work with homeless populations, as well as the community at
One of its primary aims is to try and place the chronic homeless
and others in housing first before working to solve the problems
that put them on the street in the first place. Though the numbers
are relatively small, the chronic homeless easily use more than
half of the financial resources available for helping homeless individuals.
The 2006 survey indicates that progress is being made.
"You are seeing people who were homeless but who are now in
stable housing," Nooe said.
Still the survey also indicated that 1,652 homeless individuals
were living in Knoxville and Knox County and about 300 fell into
the chronic category.
"I think it will be a challenge (to achieve the plan's goals)
but I think it is doable," Lawler said before adding, "I
think a lot of the groundwork has been done in that this is a plan
a lot of people have bought into."