Jefferson Heights Residents Need Relief From Nearby Homeless Encampment

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - by Paul Payne
Entrance to homeless encampment off Main Street at railroad overpass
Entrance to homeless encampment off Main Street at railroad overpass

Jefferson Heights in Chattanooga’s Southside is a close-knit community that represents a throwback to family-oriented neighborhoods from years ago. Residents regularly visit on front porches, congregate at the local park and share produce from tending to the area’s community garden.

There is also a Jefferson Heights online message board to keep everyone connected, announcing upcoming events and news tidbits involving community residents.  But lately, the various entries on the site have read more like a police blotter.

The persistent issue of homelessness in Chattanooga has taken root in Jefferson Heights, and some troubling events over the past few weeks have resulted in a mixture of unrest and anger among many in the neighborhood.

A homeless encampment has emerged off Main Street adjacent to the railroad overpass near Central Avenue.  The area is separated by a fenced enclosure of a large concrete slab along Madison Avenue, and the squatters are concealed by a thicket of trees along the railroad right-of-way.

Since occupying the space in late February, there have been multiple encounters with local residents along with a corresponding rash of personal property suddenly disappearing. Chattanooga Police have been contacted on numerous occasions to handle public domestic altercations and to file reports on the stolen items, but the problems persist.

The presence of the encampment took on a more dangerous tone last Thursday night when an explosion and resulting fire awakened neighbors. Inhabitants of the new settlement were seen running down residential alleyways fleeing from the incident, with rail traffic suspended while the blaze was brought under control.

Previously, two of the campsite residents have threatened physical harm to Jefferson Heights residents, and families have had their young children exposed to violent fisticuffs among a homeless couple on the sidewalks along Main Street while attempting to enjoy the solitude of their backyard.

During the past few weeks numerous bicycles have been stolen from porches, and one homeless individual was caught on camera carrying three bicycles while riding on a fourth. Sheets of plywood were removed from a nearby construction site and transported to the encampment, leaving residents exasperated by the lack of a remedy from local officials.

One resident, Zac Adams, expressed his frustrated by the ongoing threat to his family’s quality of life and safety. “When I contacted the police, they told us to contact the city. The city told us to contact housing, and they told us to call police. So we literally got the triple run-around. After the brawl a few days ago, all the police did was separate them, talk to them and drive them 100 yards back to where they live. We are like, ‘What is going on?’ The next day the woman confronted a neighbor and told us to mind our own business. It’s been a comedy of errors with the police and we get no reply at all from repeated requests to our City Council member.”

Adams had over $30,000 of property stolen from his garage late last year, and another resident who recently had her daughter’s bicycle removed from her porch also had her car filled with gifts stolen in front of her home on Christmas Eve.

Neighbors regularly witness the homeless residents riding bicycles through the streets during the day, but the lack of solutions has created a different sense of captivity than that brought on by COVID-19.

Tricia Adams said, “We understand the times and what the pandemic has created. The problem is they are becoming more brazen, and my kids were 100 yards away from a window when that explosion occurred. We are sympathetic to the fact homeless people need help, but we have no one pointing us in the right direction to find a solution.”

Ashley Brown has made numerous attempts to seek assistance with the recent rash of incidents, but to no avail. She said, “The police informed me to call 311 because they deal with city codes. When I called 311, they said they didn’t know why I would call them. When they started stealing bicycles I called the non-emergency number and had an officer tell me they could do no more than issue a citation. They advised me to file a complaint with City Hall, which is closed due to COVID. How much longer will they continue to ignore our complaints and use COVID as an excuse to not act?”

The matter has become troubling to families forced to shelter in place at home with their children.

Brian Beise said, “Hearing from neighbors about people camping in the neighborhood having fights in the park, stealing belongings, and even threatening people makes it harder to feel my kids are safe around their own home. I understand the unique challenges the city government is facing right now, but residents feeling safe in their own neighborhood has to be a high priority. It's basic stuff.”

It’s a shame that the pleas of Jefferson Heights residents of have fallen upon deaf ears to this point.  Hopefully the leadership and safety officials of Chattanooga will intervene before the situation worsens, finding the needed help for the homeless population as well as allowing this vibrant community to again spend less time monitoring crime.

Paul Payne

paulpayne6249@gmail.com

Man that Jefferson Heights residents said was riding away with several bicycles
Man that Jefferson Heights residents said was riding away with several bicycles

How The Civil War Will Start

2 Wrongs Never Make A Right

Roy Exum: These Riots Are Surreal


Last night’s protests across the country mark the beginning of a new chapter in American history. We are not in a civil war yet. But that reality is quickly approaching. The military has already ... (click for more)

I was outraged at the apparent excessive police restraint used on George Floyd. The man was on the ground with four police officers on his back, did one really need to put his knee on his neck?According ... (click for more)

On Monday, when an unarmed black man was killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis, there were 28 others, predominately black, shot within the city limits of Chicago on the very same day. The ... (click for more)



Opinion

How The Civil War Will Start

Last night’s protests across the country mark the beginning of a new chapter in American history. We are not in a civil war yet. But that reality is quickly approaching. The military has already deployed scouts to assess the situation in Chattanooga. My expectation is that the scouts will conclude the military’s resources are better spent in Nashville and Memphis. But nothing ... (click for more)

2 Wrongs Never Make A Right

I was outraged at the apparent excessive police restraint used on George Floyd. The man was on the ground with four police officers on his back, did one really need to put his knee on his neck?According to Chief Roddy apparently not and I agree. The officer has been charged with murder. Speaking of excessive force, I do not understand how protesters think destroying the property ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Protestors Face Off With Law Enforcement At County Courthouse; Tear Gas Used After Incident On Balcony; Lee Mobilizes Guard And Seeks Further Investigation Into Nashville Unrest

A crowd of some 100 protestors did minor damage at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Sunday night, but left after tear gas was lobbed into a balcony area. Chattanooga Police said afterward the tear gas was thrown by the Sheriff's Office and not the city police. City Police also said they were not given warning that the tear gas was going to be used. In another tense night in ... (click for more)

Erlanger Nurse Fired After Social Media Post About Not Treating Protestors

An Erlanger employee was let go after a Facebook comment was brought to the hospital's attention. Tracy Davis said on Facebook that she was getting a good look at protesters faces and they shouldn't come to her hospital wanting help if they got hurt. Erlanger officials responded on Twitter by saying: "It is important to understand that her comments are her views as an individual. ... (click for more)

Sports

Ray Deering, Popular Baylor School Administrator And Sports Columnist, Dies

Ray Deering, a beloved Baylor School administrator and sports enthusiast who wrote a popular sports column in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has died. A lifelong resident of Chattanooga, Mr. Deering was a 1961 graduate of Chattanooga High School and received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Chattanooga in 1965. At UC he served as the sports editor of ... (click for more)

Trio Of Moc Runners Honored As CoSIDA Academic All-Americans

Nathan Watson, Jonathan Boyd and Abbey Bateman were named to the 2020 CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team, as voted on by sports information directors around the country, for their excellence in the classroom and competition. The 2020 Academic All-District® Women's Track & Field / Cross Country Team, selected by CoSIDA, recognizes the nation's top student-athletes ... (click for more)