Former homeless man helps bring heat to homeless camps - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Former homeless man helps bring heat to homeless camps

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A former homeless man found his way off the Chattanooga streets, and now he's giving back to those who are still struggling.

"My truck blew up, my tools got stolen... and here I am," Tree Smith said from outside his homeless camp.

Smith is a former Army veteran and has been living on the streets for 10 years now. He said it's been a tough winter living outside, but wants to say 'thanks' to one homeless Samaritan.

"He heard about the cold weather coming, and he showed up with a heater."

Smith said they now "stay warm inside" -- as 'inside' as blankets and a blue tarp covering can be.

"I've seen it get as high as 67 degrees in there," he said, thanks to the Samaritan's homemade stove heater.

Will Wallace is that homeless Samaritan.

"When it started getting really cold, I said I need to do something," Wallace said.

So he started building stove heaters out of recycled oil barrels and dropping them off at homeless camps across the city. It takes just two hours and some power tools to turn an old barrel into a source of heat for someone who needs it.

"You can build a fire, and it heats up to 1,200 square feet," he said. "It gets nice and toasty... plus, you can cook yourself some waffles."

Wallace knows what it means to have heat and a warm meal. He was homeless for four years after losing his limo business in the recession.

"In a matter of months, my car was repoed, bank account dried up, and outside I went."

Wallace and his fiance, Sherrie, met outside of Community Kitchen five years ago. Ever since getting back on their feet, they've made it their mission to help those who are still trying to dig themselves out of homelessness.

"You may not have four walls made of brick or wood, but [the homeless camp] is still your home," Wallace said.

And by building the stoves, it's a little easier for others, like Smith, to get by.

"It stays warm," Smith said. "It's made a big difference."

Each stove costs $135 to make. Wallace is asking the community for help with monetary or material donations, so he can continue building stoves for the homeless.

You can reach Wallace on Twitter at @willwallace211 or by phone at (423) 304-4602. Donations can be made at

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