Housing on Chattanooga Community Kitchen menu

Housing on Chattanooga Community Kitchen menu

August 29th, 2013 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

House of All Souls resident Max Thrasher, near right, watches as postal worker Rebecca Bently delivers a package to property manager Tommie Pruitt, second from left. Mark Williams, Community Kitchen director for permanent housing, listens to the exchange.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

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For more information about permanent housing offered through the Chattanooga Community Kitchen contact Mark Williams at 756-4222.

The Chattanooga Community Kitchen became owner of three homes that it plans to fill with homeless people by mid-October.

"This is the answer," said Executive Director Charlie Hughes, leaning against the counter of one of the homes. "We've identified problems but the goal has always been permanent housing."

All three of the homes are located off Chamberlain Avenue. One is finished. Two are under renovation and are expected to be completed within the next two weeks, Hughes said.

The homes will house a total of 17 people.

Unlike transitional housing programs where the occupant has a time limit defining how long they can live in the house, these houses will be available to occupants for life, Hughes said.

Vanessa Blevins, director of finance and grant administrator, said she wants the homes to be like "heaven on earth" for everyone who lives there.

The first home, on McRae Street, is called the House of All Souls. The other two homes under renovation are called Matthew's Place. The homes, across from the first, are named after Mary Simon's son Matthew, who died at age 12 of a brain tumor.

Simon was the former executive director of the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition.

"He was a kid who was full of life and into everything and that's what we want for our residents," Blevins said. "We want them to have vitality and to feel like they belong."

The homes were previously owned by Rosewood Supportive Services. When the company dissolved this year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development worked with the kitchen to obtain ownership of the property.

The Chattanooga Department of Neighborhood Services and Community Development also provided funding for the project, Hughes said.

The kitchen already had housed men with disabilities in the House of All Souls two years ago, but it didn't own the housing then. So the kitchen couldn't lease rooms when someone left.

The house holds up to nine people but has three vacancies.

All of those vacancies will be leased by October, Hughes said. The other two homes will house four people each. Hughes said he plans to definitely make one of the renovated homes available to chronically homeless men with disabilities. But he's unsure of the qualifications for the second. He's considering leasing it to homeless women with disabilities.

Rent for occupants is funded by project based vouchers. And the kitchen's director of permanent housing Mark Williams and property manager Tommie Pruitt will assist men in acquiring other social services and resources.

Several men and women standing on the sidewalk outside the Community Kitchen said they were homeless and wanted permanent housing.

The Community Kitchen now has a whole system where people can have their needs met and go onto independent living, said Blevins.

James Bradley, 77, said he hopes to get into a house before he dies.

He's a 1950s Navy veteran who has back and leg problems.

"It's hard to find housing," said Bradley. "They have programs but nobody is going to give me a job at 77 and you can't get housing if you can't pay."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.