Ron Littlefield makes pitch for a new Homeless Center for Chattanooga

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CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – Former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield made a presentation to the Hamilton County Commission this morning.

News 12’s Ashley Henderson has the story.

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Littlefield asked the Hamilton County Commission to consider allocating a million dollars a year from the Hotel/Motel tax, to go toward the operating costs of what’s called a “low barrier” homeless shelter.

“We’re doing very well, and God willing we will continue to do very well, we have become a magnet for tourism, particularly family tourism, and it’s paying dividends and reaping rewards in ways that we can’t even measure.”

But Commissioner Greg Martin worried that we might be making it too attractive for out of town homeless people.

“I want to make sure that what we do does not attract homeless people from Florida, Atlanta, Nashville – to come and overburden our system.”

“That’s a common concern in communities all over, ‘We’re going to make it so nice that everyone will come here and want to be homeless in our community.’ No that’s one of those urban myths that doesn’t really play out.”

Littlefield noted that although Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has proposed a $7 million a year operating budget for a shelter of this type, people have told him that estimate is too high. But having a reliable base to build upon is the point.

“You can always raise a certain amount of operating money, it’s having a nucleus of funding that you can rely on, that – when people step up to offer private funds, they want to know what the government’s putting in.”

Commissioner David Sharpe thinks even the higher estimate for operating a shelter would actually save money.

“Indigent care in Hamilton County costs, both private and public organizations, well over a hundred million dollars annually.”

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