City making emergency allocation for homeless housing in Chattanooga

City making emergency allocation for homeless housing in Chattanooga

April 24th, 2018 by Emmett Gienapp in Breaking News

Piles of tents, sleeping bags, and trash are seen in the former site of a homeless encampment on city-owned property behind the municipal wellness center on East 11th Street on Thursday, April 12, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The camp's residents were removed from the site because the property is a toxic brownfield. Out of 130 residents counted in the camp, 80 have applied for housing through Chattanooga Housing Authority and 8 have been approved, according to Twitter posts by Mayor Andy Berke's deputy chief of staff Kerry Hayes.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

This story was updated April 24, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.

The city of Chattanooga will make an emergency allocation of up to $49,500 to fund temporary shelter for dozens of people who were displaced after a homeless encampment downtown was shut down earlier this month.

More than 130 homeless men and women were told they had to relocate from a lot behind a city-owned wellness center on East 11th Street, saying the land was contaminated after years of being used as a waste dump decades ago.

The city originally provided $15,000 to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen to reopen an emergency cold weather shelter for two weeks to house people, but that mantle will now be carried by the Salvation Army, which is receiving this second allocation. The kitchen has housed an average of 60 people per night, according to the city.

Employees in Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's office briefed the City Council during a strategic session on Tuesday afternoon, proposing that the city extend temporary shelter to those individuals displaced by the action until June 30 for an estimated cost of $750 a night.

"That total cost was calculated assuming that all 60 people live there for the duration," said Stacy Richardson, Berke's chief of staff. "We anticipate scaling that down over time as people are moved out and into permanent housing."

More than half of the people displaced earlier this month applied for permanent housing through the Chattanooga Housing Authority, which is working to process those requests as quickly as possible, but those efforts are hampered by a lack of housing options.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 11 people have been moved into housing and another 27 have been approved and are waiting to move into units that have yet to become available. City officials hope to continue taking advantage of the situation and house as many people as possible in one fell swoop.

"We're all really trying to turn a crisis into an opportunity here for people that wouldn't have had this resource otherwise," said Sam Wolfe, the city's homeless program coordinator.

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.