Combating homelessness in Chattanooga has been a difficult task for years, but a new four-year plan may help.

The plan aims to focus on four things:

  • Identifying people who are homeless
  • Creating more emergency and temporary shelters
  • Placing more people into permanent housing
  • Recruiting more outreach workers and expanding case management services.

But Mayor Berke's new Interagency Council on Homelessness and consultants at Analytic Insight say it will not be cheap. 

“Homelessness, in general, is a costly thing to fix. It's not a simple solution,” Homeless Program Coordinator Sam Wolfe said.

The plan calls for an initial investment of $10 million in the first four years, but Wolfe says reallocating funding from existing homeless services and programs will be used towards that cost.

Many shelters in place have requirements for those in need of a place to stay, which is why the plan notes wanting to utilize more temporary hotel and program vouchers. However, a 250-bed emergency shelter is listed in the plan as well. It would cost an estimated $5.6 million to operate annually.

Wolfe said so far, around 600 people in Chattanooga are considered homeless.

“We have a strong concentration of people experiencing homelessness down here on 11th street.”

In April, the city shut down "tent city" on 11th Street because of soil contamination, leaving 136 people misplaced.

Wolfe said about 70 of those people have found permanent housing.
           
“The vast majority of those people are still in housing. We communicate with them at least on a monthly basis and sometimes more depending on the assistance someone may need,” Wolfe said. “Really we're trying to use that same methodology with this saying; hey we have someone experiencing homelessness in our community. Let’s identify their needs and try to get them placed into housing permanently and sustainable as quickly as possible.”

Wolfe said they hope to begin planning and organizing groups as soon as possible.

“It's a similar process that we have gone through in serving our veterans so working off of a by-name list and having everyone in our community who has been identified allows us to problem solves for all of those specific individuals,” Wolfe said. “Just like there's no one-way solution that works for you and I, there's no one-way solution that works for people experiencing homelessness in our community.”

A community information session is scheduled for Jan. 10 at the Highland Park Neighborhood Association, 1714 Duncan Ave.