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Staff photo by Emily Crisman / The city of Chattanooga is reconsidering its plan to shelter members of its homeless population at the Budgetel Inn & Suites in East Ridge, where the city planned to rent up to 100 rooms using funds to be reimbursed through a Federal Emergency Management Agency program.

The city of Chattanooga is putting on hold its plan to provide shelter for members of its growing homeless population in an East Ridge hotel after discussing the initiative with East Ridge Mayor Brian Williams for the first time on Thursday — two days after the Chattanooga City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the plan.

"We have been in contact with the city of East Ridge, who share our understanding that homelessness is a regional problem that requires a regional approach," said Richel Albright, former communications director for the city of Chattanooga, in a written statement. "We completely understand their concerns and are pausing while we work with them to determine the best possible solution."

At the East Ridge City Council meeting on Friday afternoon, which was rescheduled from Thursday evening due to severe weather, Williams said he had a positive discussion with Chattanooga officials on Thursday.

"We will make the best possible solution, because we do know that it is a reasonable and a dire need that is within our community, our entire region," he said.

If that solution involves sheltering people in East Ridge, it should involve an interlocal agreement, Williams said.

East Ridge City Manager Chris Dorsey said he met with Tyler Yount, special projects manager for the city of Chattanooga, on Friday to discuss the situation. He said Yount told him the city is looking into renting rooms from a Chattanooga hotel that submitted the second lowest bid to the city, which requested bids from hotels to provide non-group shelter to people experiencing homelessness to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The $400,000 that the city plans to spend to rent the rooms would be reimbursed through a Federal Emergency Management Agency program.

Recently released data from the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition showed a more than 80% increase in unsheltered individuals in Hamilton County, from 201 in 2020 to 364 in 2021.

Contact Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6508.

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