Chattanooga Mayor Wants to Use COVID Funding for Emergency Homeless Shelter

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Chattanooga, TN (WDEF) – The Chattanooga Mayor and his administration want to buy a hotel to use as emergency shelter for the homeless.

A presentation was given to council members during a committee meeting Tuesday afternoon. They are proposing to use federal COVID money to make this happen.

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Tyler Yount, Director of Special Projects, “During this pandemic we’ve seen an increased need for indoor non congregate emergency shelter for individuals and households who don’t have shelter, mostly people experiencing homelessness.”

Currently the city is funding an isolation shelter at the Salvation Army. The health department uses funds to provide temporary hotel stays. The plan does have to get approval from city council before it can move forward.

Read the full press release here: Mayor Andy Berke’s administration has presented a plan to the Chattanooga City Council calling for the converting of a local hotel property into an emergency shelter for the community’s homeless population.

Under the mayor’s plan, more than $1 million of new Community Development Block Grant – COVID-19 (CDBG-CV) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development could be used for this purpose.

Throughout the pandemic, the City and its partners have made limited use of local hotel inventory to house individuals experiencing homelessness who may require isolation or quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus. Experts expect a rise in homelessness in the coming months as eviction moratoriums and other federal supports diminish.

The federal government has failed to act for more than 200 days to provide additional relief to families or local governments that are struggling because of the pandemic.

“Hotels are the safest, quickest option for emergency shelter during COVID-19, but the costs add up,” said Tyler Yount, Mayor Berke’s Director of Special Projects. “Using these resources to purchase a hotel could mean more efficient use of our long-term funding, more nimbly responding to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, and increasing the speed at which we can get more people permanently housed.”

Developing an emergency shelter has been identified as a key community priority by the Chattanooga Interagency Council on Homelessness (CICH), and is described as such in the 2018 Homelessness Action Plan. In that plan, community leaders and stakeholders advocated for the inclusion of additional low-barrier emergency shelter beds to help people stay connected to housing services.

As a next step, the administration will use its contracted realtor to search for an appropriate property that fits our needs and budget, at no charge to the City. Once a potential property has been located, an inspection will take place to ensure that it meets all necessary requirements and would be appropriate for this unique use before purchase and renovation.

The City would eventually contract with a nonprofit to manage the property on an annual basis to provide grounds maintenance, cleaning services, and help with residents’ daily needs. City Homeless Services staff would then begin the process of moving people out of the shelter and into permanent housing.

The property could be ready for occupancy as soon as Summer 2021.