Pam's Points: Help for the homeless, hot race on horizon

Pam's Points: Help for the homeless, hot race on horizon

January 4th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Newly retired Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd may challenge Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond in the May 6 Republican primary.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

No cold shoulder to homeless

Kudos to Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke for once again stepping up to help Chattanooga's less fortunate.

The first time it was to insist that the out-of-town owners of Patten Towers find temporary shelter for apartment residents made homeless by a fire. This time, Berke is gathering information about the needs of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen and the Chattanooga Homeless Coalition's efforts to provide overnight shelter for the city's homeless during the frigid nights ahead.

Until Thursday, when the night wind chill was forecast at 8 degrees, there had been no overnight shelter at the kitchen since Thanksgiving because there was no funding for it. There was no funding because the Chattanooga Homeless Coalition didn't ask for money during city budget hearings. The coalition went through a leadership transition late in 2013 and the opportunity to seek funds fell through the cracks, according to Community Kitchen Executive Director Charlie Hughes. Hughes said he has made arrangements to keep the shelter open at least Sunday and Monday.

The Homeless Coalition last year received $75,000 in city funding to pay for the Community Kitchen to provide a 24-hour shelter from November through the end of February 2013. The money paid for shelter staff and an off-duty police officer who provided security.

When this year's crisis came to light and homeless officials asked Berke's administration for emergency help, Berke sent the coalition's new (since August) director Steven Wright a letter asking what, specifically, city money will pay for.

There were questions like: How many days will the cold-weather shelter be open from this point forward? How many people do you anticipate serving at the cold-weather shelter? What other funding sources have you sought to operate this shelter? Will any funds be contributed by other organizations? What does the Homeless Coalition have in reserves? Is any portion of the operating expenses of the proposed shelter budgeted by the Homeless Coalition or any outside entity? If so, how much? If not, why not?

Berke wants to help, but he also wants to know -- before the issue goes to the Chattanooga City Council for consideration (likely Tuesday) -- exactly how city money will be spent, and he wants to ensure accountability.

All of those intentions are laudable, and it's likely the city's pointed questions about accountability will help the coalition, too. On another day we can try to understand why, since August, the coalition hasn't sought help before cold weather arrived.

Dodd weighing race for sheriff

The news of former Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd picking up qualifying papers this week for a potential run for Hamilton County sheriff promises a hotly contested race against incumbent Sheriff Jim Hammond.

It also raises a new opportunity locally.

Dodd, just two days after he retired from the police department, tentatively threw his name in the race when he signed for qualifying papers. He has until Feb. 20 to turn in those papers with 25 signatures. Dodd said if he decides to run, he will run as a Republican in the May 6 primary.

He would be a good fit. He has experience now with management skills, and he has leadership abilities.

What's the new opportunity? Savings and coordination if the community wants to consider metro policing.

It's just a thought.