According to Chattanoogan.com, Chattanooga city officials said they plan to secure up to 100 rooms at the Budgetel in East Ridge to house some of the surge in the local homeless population.
Tyler Yount of the mayor’s office said for 90 days FEMA has agreed to reimburse the city’s costs at 100 percent.
Mr. Yount said it is expected the city will spend up to $400,000 on the effort.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said East Ridge Mayor Brian Williams. “(The City of Chattanooga) didn’t contact East Ridge prior. We have reached out to Chattanooga (officials) to get more information.”
Yount told Chattanoogan.com that the Budgetel at I-75 Exit 1 had the best proposal when the item was put out to local hotels.
Mr. Yount said, “There has been a giant jump in unsheltered homelessness in Chattanooga.”
Within the last month, the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition conducted a “point in time count” of homeless in the greater Chattanooga area. The data revealed there are 364 chronic homeless people in our area, a jump of 81 percent over the previous year.
Yount told Chattanoogan.com that many homeless are gathering in large “Tent Cities” that are putting the residents at risk for COVID infection as well as many other health and safety issues.
He stated, “It also makes it very difficult for us to work with the homeless.”
As a result, he said, “There is a concerted effort now “to get people out of the camps and off the streets.”
He said it was decided that the hotel idea was the most cost effective solution.
“It’s almost like Deja Vu,” said East Ridge Councilwoman Esther Helton.
Helton was referring to the 2015 action of the City of East Ridge condemning Superior Creek Lodge, an extended stay hotel on the same site. After the condemnation, the East Ridge City Council adopted a new ordinance regulating the time a patron could stay in an extended stay hotel. The new owners assured the council that it would operate a mainstream motel with an extended stay component that management would comply with.
Chattanoogan.com reported that Yount said the federal government is also funding various agencies that will be working at the hotel directly with the homeless to seek to find them permanent shelter elsewhere as well as other services.
Also, the hotel will provide a shuttle to take the homeless for certain needed trips.
He said having the homeless together in the hotel “will make it easy for us to get them vaccinated.”
There will also be a security component, it was stated.
Mr. Yount said the city is still moving forward on a project to buy a hotel and house homeless there. He said several properties have been checked out and the city is doing environmental studies.
That will have to go through the Planning Commission, then to the City Council for final approval.