Night clubbers feed homeless; doing better by doing good - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Night clubbers feed homeless; doing better by doing good

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- "Give me one reason to stay here, and I'll turn right back around..."

Tracy Chapman's lyrics could well me a metaphor for life, if your home is the streets, or a series of extended-stay motels. But from the lips of Atlanta songstress Trina Michelle, they're an invitation to come inside the Midtown Lounge & Grill at noon Saturday, grab a hot dog and chips, and a change of clothes.

And if Gary Johnson and Anthony Byrd have anything more to say about it; a change of life, as well. "This is my promise to God," Johnson says. "A few years ago, we was going through some tough times in our life. Getting past that means giving back. It's helping people, we don't making nothing from it, it's just from the heart, we're trying to touch lives and make an impact."

The "gathering", of material and manpower, began more than two months ago.  Twenty friends and businesses have chipped in to feed, and shoe, more than four dozen people.

"When you look at the growing number of homeless, it was very touching, and easy," Byrd says. "It wasn't a sell. What kid don't want the newest pair of Jordans or Air Force Ones or Nike Air Shocks? When they go to school, you won't be the butt of every kid's joke?"

The mission goes beyond Midtown's four walls. And so does the message: "doing good" can signal "doing better"."

Two months ago, the former Midtown Music Hall needed a Chancery Court appeal to keep its beer permit. The past two years detail a litany of complaints about noise, and selling beer to minors. Chattanooga Police say they've been called to the venue more than four dozen times over the past year.

"We were here two years without anything," Byrd says. "Then, once some other businesses came to downtown, it caused a problem for us. My caliber of person is not like that. I  have great morals, I have strong values, and I believe in community."

Byrd, and Johnson  say they aren't sure how often they'll be able to offer help such as this. Johnson is a mechanic full-time, and has "side businesses", including working for Byrd at Midtown.

"I'd like it to become a ministry," Johnson says. Even if it's just talking to somebody, encouraging words, anything. I try to do it every day."

"It's about us coming together," Byrd says. "This city is gonna be ruined if we don't come together; if we don't work as one."

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