CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Chattanooga’s Homeless reduction initiative over the years has shown only marginal results. With the 2020 fiscal budget, Mayor Andy Berke and city leaders have raised the bar on funding and organizing programs.
Mayor Berke’s budget includes 1.3 million dollars to get Chattanooga’s homeless into a permanent shelter. The city plans to spend 600-thousand dollars next year through Family Promise, Room at the Inn, Goodwill Furniture Bank and the Homeless Coalition.
Jens Christensen, CEO of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen said, “Any efforts to help eliminate homelessness or provide housing for the people that we serve are very welcome. It’s a situation when you’re dealing with poverty and dealing with people that don’t have a place to call home, where the more players, the more people that come together and try and eliminate that issue, the better.”
The city’s program is headed by Sam Wolf.
“It’s not a magic bullet that suddenly solves the housing problem in our community and I think it’s going to be something that it takes us really working together, hand in hand with more than just city government, but non-profits, community people to really advocate for more affordable housing, to solve this problem long term,” said Sam Wolf, Homeless Program Coordinator for the City of Chattanooga.
The actual number of homeless people in Chattanooga varies, but they all face the same number one challenge.
“As the average cost of housing increases in our community, we’re going to have more and more people that are ‘rent burdened’ and more likely to become homelessness, or become homeless due to their financial situations, and so it really speaks to the need for us to try to work together to solve this problem,” said Wolf.
“What we really need to look at to solve the issue in the city of Chattanooga, is how we can make that living wage and that affordable housing come together, so that people can earn enough to pay rent in a decent place to live. That’s the biggest challenge we have in the city for homelessness,” said Christensen.
The city says It’s difficult to set an exact number of those who need help, but the Homeless Health Care Clinic on 11th street served almost 4,000 different patients last year.