Believing that homeless Chattanoogans are no less important than any other group of constituents, CHANGER (Chattanoogans and North Georgians for Economic Human Rights) has invited the candidates for Chattanooga's mayor and City Council to experience homelessness for a day with a 24-hour Urban Plunge.
This event will partner the leaders and candidates who accept this invitation with a homeless person for an immersion into homelessness in Chattanooga. For 24 hours, these political candidates will face situations that homeless Chattanoogans regularly encounter.
The Urban Plunge will begin on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 6 a.m. at the Community Kitchen and will conclude the following morning with a round table discussion and press conference.
"We believe this opportunity is a gift,'' said Brother Ron Fender, spokesman for the CHANGER and outreach case manager at the Community Kitchen, which has endorsed the Plunge. "This is a gift because it allows these candidates, who are elected as servants to the people, to bridge a tremendously wide gap and learn more about citizens who live in the lowest depths of poverty."
The Urban Plunge is a nation-wide experience. In 2007, the mayor candidates in Nashville were invited to Plunge and experience homelessness for a day. The candidates accepted the invitation, and their Plunge made national news.
"The Plunge is designed to help people with homes understand the lives of those who don't have homes,'' said David Cook, a member of CHANGER. "It is not only a material experience, but a spiritual one as well, and Plungers will find in the course of 24 short hours, their beliefs on homelessness, poverty and wealth will change dramatically.''
All candidates accepting this invitation will need to respond to Brother Ron Fender on or before Monday, Feb. 23, to receive further instructions and be matched with an appropriate homeless guide.
CHANGER is the local arm of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, an international movement based around the UN's Declaration of Human Rights that all people are entitled to housing and shelter.
"Housing is a human right, and poverty should not be a crime,'' said Brother Fender. "We believe our public servants will find the compassion and humanitarian courage to take this plunge.''