If you or someone you know could benefit from the Neediest Cases Fund, call 423-752-0353.
There's no place like home for the holidays -- but what if home isn't available?
The Room in the Inn, a local nonprofit agency that works to provide resources and stability for those who need it most, frequently partners with the United Way of Greater Chattanooga to help local homeless and recovering women.
Just ask Teresa Atkins, one of the many Chattanooga residents who turned her life around at the North Highland Park Avenue agency.
Atkins hit rock bottom, serving time in jail for drug charges before her referral to the inn in August. She was able to gain stability and save up money with her job.
"They didn't have to accept me," Atkins said. "But they gave me a chance. They've really been a blessing for me."
And after finishing one program and working her way up to the assistant manager at Burger King, she is now part of the inn's Home Run program. She thrives off the supportive services and rent assistance the Room in the Inn provides.
"Because of my charges, it was so hard for me to get housing," Atkins said. "I found a place, they leased it and then they let me lease it from them. I can't say enough good things about the program."
Casey Kendall, who has served the Room in the Inn as its case manager for two years, was inspired by Atkins' three months in the facility. Atkins entered rehabilitation programs to battle her drug addiction and shed her troubled past, all the while gaining stability for her future.
"She came in with the mindset 'I need to change,'" Kendall said. "Watching her path to success, her willingness to change her life, is such a great memory."
With money raised during this year's Times Free Press Neediest Cases campaign, which runs through Dec. 31, the United Way and its partner agencies in the region hope to fill such basic needs to those in greatest need. Since the Fund was started almost 100 years ago, Times Free Press readers have donated in amounts large and small to help the area's most vulnerable.
The story of the Inn began 25 years ago when a study by city leaders found there were very few options and resources available for single women or children who found themselves homelessness.
On Aug. 31, 1988, the non-profit was founded to provide overnight shelter at seven Chattanooga area churches. But in 1992, the Inn became its own facility, a fully-operational shelter open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Since day one, the Room in the Inn estimates it has helped more than 3,000 women regain their independence "with dignity and security."
Stability is the name of the game when it comes to ex-offenders. Upon release from jail, many ex-offenders are placed into troublesome situations by default.
"Not only do they have a hard time getting employment, but many are released between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.," said Eileen Robertson-Rehberg, the director of United Way's local 2-1-1 program which assists such people in need.
"They're put on the streets with exactly what they came to jail with, and there's limited opportunities for gainful employment," she said.
That's where the Room in the Inn steps in, by providing a nine-month residential program to bring all the essentials within reach: Transitional housing. Three square meals a day. Free or affordable health care. Parenting classes. Mentors and more.
And at the end of the day, the Room in the Inn is just glad to help.
"I'm always thinking about the ways Ican help the ladies there," Kendall said.
Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow him on Twitter at @presslafave.