Quietreader, your comment in particular holds great weight. We, at the Community Kitchen, are very grateful that Mary was able to find help. In fact, after two decades of working with her, it was more than clear that existing programs and services were not equipped to meet her needs. There's no question about that.
And, from that point of view, this article is a very important one. Unfortunately, several of its assertions are untrue. In particular, Mary was never "banned" from the Community Kitchen. In fact, over the years, Kitchen case managers have secured housing for her twice and even arranged for SETHRA to serve as her payee. These events, along with many others, required countless man hours and ongoing advocacy – services have not been denied.
Second, the Community Kitchen does not receive or cash checks for anyone seeking or receiving services; in fact, doing so would be against policy – instead, case managers will seek to find a responsible party to act as a payee for clients that need help managing their disability checks. As in Mary’s case, SETHRA is often the organization that acts as payee. To be clear, Kitchen employees never received or accepted dollars for Mary or from her check – instead, this would be a responsibility of the payee.
These are just two of the assertions that were not checked against fact. There are others.
Still, Mary’s story is remarkable; and we are grateful that it has been shared. But, it is not the only important story to share – each day, hundreds of our neighbors experience homelessness. It is true that not all of their stories end in success. But most of them do – thanks to the many agencies and folks that work hard each day to make a real difference.
Having served over 180,000 meals last year and helped thousands of our most vulnerable neighbors secure the services they need, we are ever grateful for each successful escape from the condition of homelessness. And, as in Mary’s case, we are always aware that each situation is unique, and requires a strong, supportive community. We’re grateful to be a part of that community – and thankful for its support.
We, at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, fully understand concerns regarding waste, environmental impact and cost associated with bottled water. For those that may wonder, we do indeed recycle significant volumes of material - in fact, we recycled over 350 tons of material last year, including more than 18 tons of plastic.
We also strongly encourage reuse of the bottles - to that end, we are seeking to install a bottle refilling station as soon as we can afford the investment. Of course, sanitation becomes an issue with extended periods of reuse, so we must also consider that as a component of overall health. But, the most important aspect remains hydration.
Here's the base line: as the mercury rises, so do tempers and medical risks. In particular, beyond the obvious physical issues created by dehydration, some mental health and diabetes medications cannot properly function when a body becomes dehydrated.
Additionally, for the thousands of homeless and hungry area residents that seek services here at the Kitchen each year, portability is a key factor; to date we haven't found a better alternative to keeping folks hydrated than providing water in bottles…they can carry the bottles as they walk miles a day, to appointments, camps, shelters, even jobs. In the end, though, we certainly agree with nucanuck and northchatter - bring those bottles back and let’s refill them with tap water...and for those that aren't reusable for whatever reason, let’s put them straight into our recycling bins.
Finally, THANK YOU to all of those that continue to donate water and other resources as we work to end homelessness among our neighbors and in our community.