The city’s temporary sanctioned encampment for people experiencing homelessness will begin admitting residents this weekend through a referral-driven application process.
The city-owned encampment, which is operated by nonprofit organization Help Right Here, is designed to give residents a safe space to begin the process of securing permanent housing, and will provide tents, toilets and security.
While the temporary sanctioned encampment is not meant to serve as a permanent home, it will allow residents to better access the services and programs they need in order to progress out of homelessness. Finding a job and securing a home will now be easier for residents who are able to feel secure in their safety and the safety of their belongings, said officials.
"Studies show that it’s extremely difficult to take the steps necessary to exit homelessness when you live in an insecure environment where your documents could be stolen or space invaded by a stranger,” said Sam Wolfe, director of the city’s Office of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. “By creating a secure location for these residents to live, we will speed their exits from homelessness and empower them to take the next step in their lives.”
Anyone experiencing homelessness may apply for admission to the encampment via a referral from either the Community Kitchen or Homeless Healthcare, both of which are located one block north of the temporary sanctioned encampment, which itself sits at the corner of 12th Street and Peeples Street.
The city requests that residents exercise respect for and give space to those who are relocating.
The city is granting priority admittance to residents of a nearby encampment which sits on property next to an active rail line. Residents were previously asked to vacate for safety reasons no later than May 31. The temporary sanctioned encampment is located about two blocks from the 11th Street property.
All residents on the 11th Street property have been offered the opportunity to apply for entry at the temporary sanctioned encampment, and Help Right Here has worked for several weeks to process applications. Residents on the 11th Street property were also offered the opportunity to apply for permanent housing through the Chattanooga Housing Authority.
"City workers, along with our partners at the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition, have for the last month been actively helping residents at the existing encampment navigate the relocation process, visiting multiple times each week to ensure that all residents are informed and empowered to take the next step toward finding a home,” said Mr. Wolfe. “This new, city-sanctioned encampment will allow us to support some of our most vulnerable residents as we work to provide them with the only true solution to homelessness: a home.”
In recognition that the city suffers from a shortage of housing that Chattanoogans can afford, the Kelly administration has included $33 million in this year’s budget to help create and preserve thousands of homes as part of a $100 million affordable housing initiative. Studies have shown a direct correlation between increases in homelessness and increases in rent that are not matched by similar increases in wages. The addition of thousands of accessible homes will help create affordable housing options for residents all over the city.
To ensure that housing providers can efficiently build needed homes on unused or underused land, the city has undertaken a comprehensive zoning reform effort, which will allow Chattanooga to grow and thrive without expanding its borders.
The city has also proposed an ordinance that will allow owners of single-family homes to build accessory dwelling units, by right, on any land zoned R1. Accessory dwelling units, also known as in-law suits or granny flats, can help families age in place
The city is also working with existing housing providers to help offset any perceived risk of renting to formerly homeless residents, through a $100,000 initiative that will backstop the cost of damage to a rental unit over and above the security deposit. The program is available through the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition.