Efforts are finally underway to relocate the displaced residents of Patten Towers to nearby hotels.
The building's owners, PK Management, took nearly a week to organize the relocation of residents to hotels. The company has focused on fixing the building's aged infrastructure that was wrecked by an electrical fire on May 28, but has revealed little about its plans for the future.
PK Management cut off questions at a press conference today about its response to the crisis. This is the longest ongoing humanitarian emergency of its size in the Chattanooga area since Hurricane Gustav in 2008, emergency workers said.
Dozens of emergency workers from the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Goodwill, Hamilton County and Chattanooga have worked for six days to feed, clothe and house many of the 241 residents who had to flee the fire. The Salvation Army and Red Cross alone have spent more than $80,000 in donated funds.
A long-term fix to Patten Towers could require six to eight weeks of work, but PK Management officials said they hope to have a temporary fix in place before Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival. Riverbend visitors from around the Southeast have already booked rooms in many of the Scenic City's hotels, which will force residents to move again in just seven days. No one knows where they will go after that, least of all the residents themselves.
An inspection by fire and code officials after the fire showed a variety of problems with the 100-year-old Patten Towers, from rat feces in the vents to painted sprinkler heads. The electrical system is completely destroyed, and a custom electrical box the size of a small car must be custom built for the building.
PK Mangement drew the ire this weekend of residents and city officials for repeated delays in getting help to residents, mixed-messages about whether or not rent was due, and for not keeping residents or officials informed about their plans for closing down the shelter.
Residents did not know which hotel they would be transferred to until they stepped onto a CARTA bus this afternoon, clutching their bags of belongings.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is the regulating agency for Patten Towers. HUD officials said late today that they are working to answer reporters' questions.
HUD has not attended any news conferences or made any public statement about the disaster.