published Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Patten residents' future still in flux

Donna Maddox, director of Joe Johnson Mental Health Center on Bell Avenue, holds a list of Patten Towers residents —  clients of various social services—  who she says, "I can't find." She and dozens of others met Friday with representatives of Patten Towers owner PK Management at American Red Cross headquarters on McCallie Avenue.
Donna Maddox, director of Joe Johnson Mental Health Center on Bell Avenue, holds a list of Patten Towers residents —  clients of various social services— who she says, "I can't find." She and dozens of others met Friday with representatives of Patten Towers owner PK Management at American Red Cross headquarters on McCallie Avenue.
Photo by Tim Barber.
Patten Towers residents moved to hotels
After spending nearly a week at the Brainerd Recreational Center, Patten Towers residents were moved to local hotels Monday. A fire disabled the electrical system in the low-income housing complex on Tuesday, May 28. PK Management, the owner of Patten Towers, said they will provide the hotel rooms for one week, in hopes that the building will be operational after that time.

BY THE NUMBERS

Since the fire at Patten Towers on May 28, the Red Cross has:

Provided 830 overnight stays

Provided 13,701 meals and snacks

Provided 11,087 bulk items

Provided 200 31-day bus passes

Provided 874 medical assessments/emergency prescriptions

Conducted 280 outreach visits

Mobilized 79 volunteers to assist

Provided 200 sets of clothing

Provided 951 hygiene kits

HOW TO HELP

Visit the Red Cross online at RedCross.org

Contact the Salvation Army at 1-800-Sal-Army or go to CSArmy.org

Poll
Should Patten Towers be closed?

Patten Towers residents will remain in hotels through June 17, but after that their future housing remains in question.

That's what Tim Sheets, social services coordinator for building owner PK Management, told city and county officials and local service organizations Friday at American Red Cross headquarters on McCallie Avenue.

The meeting started with praise from the audience after Emergency Service Manager John Hitchens announced the Red Cross would distribute one-month bus passes to more than 180 residents, with 20 additional passes supplied by the city.

But the planned come-together meeting of groups helping 241 residents displaced by a May 28 basement fire degenerated into a verbal sparring match between PK employees and social organizations looking for answers.

To start, Sheets praised local groups for providing food and services and said the company has been doing everything possible to help.

"I feel we've done an excellent job with social services and case management," Sheets said.

That remark launched a volley between Sheets and the rest of the room.

Kim Printz of Metropolitan Ministries questioned how far the management company's help would go. PK Management has not come through with an endowment promised last week.

"You are killing their local budgets," Printz said of local nonprofits. "Just in gas alone. ... Are you all able to help the agencies?"

Sheets said he couldn't speak for PK Management's administration and didn't know if the company would reimburse nonprofits or other social agencies for responding to the fire.

Further, Sheets said Patten Towers was an independent living facility, and not all residents needed a great deal of help.

"I'm trying to say this the right way, without sounding cold. ... The residents we have are street-smart. ... Their survival skills are good and they have a lot of networks," he said.

Sheets said residents he's spoken with "feel like they are being overwhelmed by all the people."

That drew muffled jeers and shaking heads from the crowd of social service professionals who have been caring for the residents for 10 days.

Sheets had no definite answer about when residents would be able to move back to Patten Towers.

"A lot of that has to be looked at week to week. It's my understanding we are hoping to get them back in there," he said.

When pushed, Sheets remarked PK Management "would not put them out on the streets."

That was what Emily O'Donnell was waiting to hear. She works for Legal Aid of East Tennessee.

"So I can tell my clients that?" she asked. "Because they aren't telling us how much they like it [in the hotels] or how hard it is for you. They are asking if they will be taken care of."

Sheets repeated that he couldn't speak for PK Management administration and he did not know what would happen with residents when the hotel stays ended.

Some nonprofit representatives said hotel services to the residents vary widely.

Some are having their needs met, while others are claiming they are being charged by hotels for toilet paper, shampoo and other disposable items.

PK Management staff disputed those assertions.

"There are stories that are being exaggerated. If we can take stories we hear with a grain of salt, some of the stories out there are not as bad as we are hearing," Sheets said.

After the meeting, O'Donnell said she doubts PK Management's willingness to take responsibility for the displaced residents.

"I'm telling clients to keep receipts for losses they incur as a result of this catastrophe and inquiring about their personal needs," she said.

Donna Maddox, president of Joe Johnson Mental Health Center, said she is most concerned with what she called PK Management's lack of willingness to communicate with the health care community.

She said she asked PK Management repeatedly where her clients were staying. She finally got a list Thursday.

"With the mentally ill, our clients have gotten out to the community without their medication. We had one lady who was without medication for eight days," Maddox said. "It has been very frustrating to try to reach out and touch people who need help when we don't know where they are."

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@times freepress.com or 423-757-6481. Follow him on Twitter at @glbrogdoniv.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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