Chattanooga Community Kitchen renamed Chatt Foundation

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Chattanooga resident Anthony Lemont Henderson plays a game of cornhole with Cordell Canty, right, during a block party on East 11th Street on Friday. After 40 years as the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, the charity organization will now be known as the Chatt Foundation.

The Chattanooga Community Kitchen has a new name.

Now the Chatt Foundation, the organization continues to face spiking demand from the city's growing homeless population.

"We felt that since our services have expanded, and our goal is to become kind of a regional leader in solving the homeless crisis, that we need a name that more accurately describes the breadth and depth of what we do," CEO Baron King said in an interview Tuesday.

The "Chatt" in the organization's new name stands for "Center for Homeless Advancement for Today and Tomorrow," a nod to that goal. The board approved the name change around three months ago, King said, and the new name went public this month.

The number of people without shelter in the Chattanooga area grew by about 280% from 2020 to 2021, according to the most recent point-in-time count. On an average day, the newly-dubbed foundation now serves between 300 and 400 meals. Donations and volunteers have also increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, but not nearly at the same rate as the demand for their services, King said.

Though most of the organization's clients come from the immediate area, the high concentration of homelessness services in the city is already drawing people from around the region.

Among those are Will Norman and Christie Wilson, a couple who have been homeless for nearly a month. They were kicked out of their Pikeville, Tennessee, rental property suddenly and ended up at a Red Roof Inn in Crossville.

They said a waitress at a Waffle House next door to the motel paid a $100 Uber fare to send them to Chattanooga, knowing there would be more help for them.

The couple mostly comes to the community kitchen for food or to pick up new clothing. On Tuesday afternoon, after spending the day inside, they headed outside to join a line forming for dinner. Later, before the expected rain starts, they planned to find a safe place to pitch the eight-person tent they received as a donation this week.

"What I would really like is a bed," Wilson said. "Maybe a kitchenette."

The organization runs a shelter next to the kitchen for families with children and manages a handful of other beds in church-run shelters. It's still nowhere near enough to meet the need, King said.

"The only time they have an opening is when someone leaves," King said, "and that's not very often."

He's hopeful that a new, nearly $3 million homeless shelter the city plans to build downtown will help. But, King said, that still leaves more rural areas out.

For now, the shelter stays busy providing meals, showers, laundry and mail service for hundreds of community members.

Those services may be Band-Aids, King said, or temporary solutions to immediate needs. But judging by the dinner line winding down 11th Street on Tuesday, the demand for Band-Aids is only increasing.

Contact Ellen Gerst at Follow her on Twitter @ellengerst.