Cold drives more to shelter: Chattanooga Community Kitchen provides warm, dry space for homeless

Cold drives more to shelter: Chattanooga Community Kitchen provides warm, dry space for homeless

December 27th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Mats for people to sleep on line the floor, while groups of patrons wait outside at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen in downtown Chattanooga on Wednesday evening. As the temperature drops below freezing outside, the building offers a warm, dry place for the homeless to sleep.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Simons out at coalition

Mary Simons has resigned as executive director of the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition after leading the organization for two years.

Retired Food Bank executive director Clare Sawyer is the interim executive director.

A search committee of just under a dozen people made up of homeless coalition board members said they want to have as broad a search as possible for the position. The search committee is led by board member Jon Dutton.

Officials said the coalition's work with the homeless will continue and the annual point-in-time count of homeless people in Chattanooga will be conducted next month.

The Chattanooga Community Kitchen's shelter has been open since the beginning of this month with an average of 85 people sleeping there at night.

With temperatures expected to drop below freezing again tonight, Community Kitchen Executive Director Charlie Hughes said he anticipates even more people coming.

With the shift in weather there is a tremendous need for the shelter, said Brother Ron Fender, Community Kitchen's outreach case worker.

Shelter attendance probably will top 100 people on many nights as the weather gets colder. As many as 110 people in one night have stayed at the shelter this month, Hughes said.

Average attendance for the overnight shelter in 2011 was 118 people.

The shelter can hold up to 200 people, said Jens Christensen, assistant director of the Community Kitchen.

The shelter opened Dec. 1 with a grant written by the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition. That grant resulted in the city giving $75,000 to operate the shelter from December until the end of February.

Unlike last year, there will be a police officer at the building all night to ensure everyone's security, Fender said.

Men and women also will also separated to different sides of the building. And the shelter will include educational training to help people learn about jobs or resources available to help get them out of homelessness.

The shelter is a complement to the Chattanooga Rescue Mission, Fender said. Even on days when the mission is full, dozens of people are sleeping on mats at the Community Kitchen, he said.