Former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield is proposing that the city and county take $1 million each from the hotel/motel tax to operate a new homeless center.
Mr. Littlefield told members of the County Commission on Wednesday that he believes it would be a justified use of the hotel/motel funds because restaurant and hotel operators often complain that homeless people are disturbing their guests.
He said a "low barrier" homeless shelter has long been needed here and could be a cost-saver by housing and caring for the homeless and diverting them from more costly jail and hospital stays.
Mr. Littlefield said he believes finding the money to build the center "would be the easy part." He said the hard part is covering its ongoing operational expenses.
He noted that Mayor Andy Berke recently said it would take about $7 million per year to run such a center. Mr. Littlefield said he does not think it would be that much, but would be more than the $2 million from the hotel/motel tax so other sources of funding would need to be found.
Several commission members indicated they liked the idea.
Commissioner David Sharpe said he is supportive. He said, "Let's find a way to do it."
Commissioner Katherlyn Geter also said such a center is needed.
Another commissioner, Chip Baker, said he would like to see a business plan on the proposed center.
Commissioner Tim Boyd said the city is using almost 100 percent of its allotment of the hotel/motel tax funds on retiring riverfront debts.
He said a bill in the Legislature on short term vacation rentals would take some of the tax as received from the rentals for youth centers.
Mr. Littlefield said he plans to make a similar presentation to the City Council.