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Union Gospel Mission partners with homeless kitchen to run shelter

15 December 2011

As the winter comes, the Union Gospel Mission is providing services to the homeless in a cooperative venture with Chattanooga Community Kitchen, which has a facility on East 11th Street. The Times Free Press has covered the program for which UGM is a staffing donor. The program requires men, women and children to be in by 7 p.m. and out by 6 a.m.

The Mission supplies two men to oversee and assist these needy people. We started this service Nov. 1 and it will be open every night through March.

For over 60 years now it has continued to provide services for the homeless and needy in Chattanooga and the tri-state area, at no cost to our city, county, state, or federal government. In more than 60-plus years we have provided well over 2 million meals and well over a million safe nights of sleep.

Through no fault of our staff or clients, we found ourselves out of a facility to operate in back in 2008. For the next year and a half we were a “homeless” homeless organization, operating out of some space that the Salvation Army so generously made available and renting a location for six months on Holtzclaw Ave.

When we finally got settled it was in a location that was not suitable for our “overnight” shelter, but we continued to provide our GRACE discipleship program for the homeless of Chattanooga that were struggling with life-controlling issues such as drug addiction and alcoholism. The City of Chattanooga was kind enough to repay our 60-year history of taking care of what many would consider the city’s most undesirable residents — by threatening to file a lawsuit against us.

The Union Gospel Mission is still trying to find the opportunity to reopen an “overnight” or “emergency” shelter. We still have the beds, kitchen equipment, and infrastructure to operate a shelter at a moment’s notice. What we don’t have is a facility/building in which to operate our shelter.

The blockade that has kept closed our emergency shelter has been a continuing distress since we were forced to close the 100+ beds we had been offering. Because we felt it so important for the past 3 or 4 years, the Union Gospel Mission has worked in partnership with the Community Kitchen to offer “emergency” shelter on the coldest nights. The Kitchen would open its floor space and Union Gospel Mission would provide the staffing for these “emergency weather” nights.

This year when the Community Kitchen mentioned a full-time winter shelter we were thrilled to have the opportunity to make that happen. Providing winter shelter for the homeless of Chattanooga has turned out to be a great partnership in Christian welfare.

For more information you can visit www.theuniongospelmission.org. — JON RECTOR, director

December 15, 2011 at 1:59 p.m.

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