City of Chattanooga Increasing Funding To Find Housing For Homeless

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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.

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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.

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Ashley is a lifetime Chattanooga area resident, and a 1987 graduate from UTC, with a BA in communications. While there, he was commissioned through the ROTC program, served simultaneously in the 1/181st field artillery Tn. Army National Guard, finished Airborne school, was a member of the Scabbard and Blade military honor society and ROTC Rangers, the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, played snare drum with the UTC Marching band, and played in a southern rock band called Southern Atmosphere, while working a full time job as a trainer at the Sports Barn. He also won the Southeastern United States teenage bodybuilding competition during this time. Ashley has been with News 12 Now for 21 years. Prior to working here he was a videographer, director, producer and editor at Falcon Cable TV in Dalton, Ga. for 6 years where he produced thousands of commercials and dozens of hour long features. He also worked as a freelancer and employee at another network affiliate in Chattanooga. He has operated a part time video production business from home for 25 years. He says his passion is telling stories that feature people who give of themselves to help others, and stories that inspire people to make positive changes in themselves and their communities. Ashley is ecstatically married to Debbie Henderson, and has two step sons, a daughter in law, a sister, and lots of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews. His parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Ashley and Debbie are active members of Brainerd Baptist Church. His interests include weight training and cycling with his wife, photography, poetry, playing drums, and checking off items from his extensive honey-do list. If you would like to reach Ashley, email him at ahenderson@wdef.com.