Groups say Patten Towers' donations haven't covered costs of food, housing

Groups say Patten Towers' donations haven't covered costs of food, housing

June 12th, 2013 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

Patten Towers

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Two weeks after an electrical fire at Patten Towers rendered the 11-story downtown Section 8 housing project uninhabitable, the company that owns it has passed some money to the community that has housed, fed and clothed the building's 241 displaced elderly or disabled residents.

But service organizations say the funds don't come close to covering costs.

Local Red Cross CEO Greg Waite said PK Management, the building's owner, cut the local branch a $10,000 check Tuesday and gave money to four other social service agencies as well.

Waite is glad to see the money, but he expected more based on what the company has said publicly about paying for its residents' care.

"At two community meetings, the company has said it was looking at trying to cover our costs plus some," Waite said. "I'm still trying to cover the other 80 percent of the cost we've had -- and will continue to have until we find these people permanent housing."

The Salvation Army was given a $7,000 check Tuesday, according to Kimberly George.

George is director of marketing and development for the local branch. She, too, said the money is welcome, but it amounted to a little less than half of what the organization has put into caring for displaced Patten Towers residents.

"We're grateful. This is a time of year where our budget is the tightest, so any donations help," George said.

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Between rent from residents and a government subsidy, PK Management receives more than $2.1 million annually in income from the building.

PK officials also did not return calls or respond to emailed questions asking whether it would pay more to local nonprofits.

East Brainerd Church of Christ, which was one of two locations that housed residents immediately after the fire, received $3,000 from PK Management, but preaching minister Chris Barnett said the church opened its doors out of duty to the community.

"We would put it right back into our disaster response or go right back toward caring for our Patten Towers residents," Barnett said. "What we did, we did not do expecting anything in return."

Barnett said if he had been aware PK Management had pledged to repay area nonprofits, the church likely would have not accepted the money.

Melissa Blevins, director of operations at Chattanooga Area Food Bank, said she hasn't fully accounted for how big a dent the $2,500 PK Management gave her organization will make in expenses -- she was too busy getting Thursday's food delivery together.

Instead of making the residents travel, the food bank will deliver to the eight hotels in the city where known residents are staying, she said.

"In terms of cost ... I haven't figured that out yet. We are prepared to assist these folks with or without PK's assistance," Blevins said.

Representatives from Goodwill Chattanooga, which also reportedly received money from PK Management, did not immediately return phone calls or an email Tuesday.

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