Poverty in Chattanooga makes national headlines

Reported by: Erik Avanier
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Updated: 3/18/2014 6:43 pm
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) -  Despite major companies like Volkswagen and Amazon  employing thousands of Chattanooga residents, the city is making national headlines about its growing poverty rate.

Life wasn't always so bad for 31-one year old woman who agreed to talk to WDEF as long as we didn't use her legal name.

"I had a nice car. I had a nice home and didn't have worry about money. I could just buy whatever I wanted when I wanted it," she said.

And now everything she owns is in her back pack.

"I literally stay on the street. The shelter usually fills up before I get there," she said.

She's one of thousands of people the New York Times talked about in a recent article that highlighted Chattanooga's growing poverty population.

According to that report, 27-percent of the city's population lives at or below the poverty line compared to 15-percent nationwide. Many of those people are not only employed but actually show up at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen for food and shelter.

"35-percent of the city's homeless have jobs. It's not an issue of whether they work or not. It's an issue of having full-time job or a job that pays enough where they can afford to have a place to live," said Community Kitchen Executive Director Charlie Hughes.

Chattanooga Salvation Army Major Al Newsome says his organization is also seeing a major increase in poverty. He says helping people get back on their feet is becoming more difficult.

"We never want to turn anyone away but in reality we do that on a daily basis. We just don't have the resources," Newsome said.

Studies have shown that a good number of senior citizens are actually adding to the poverty rate.

"They're taking care of their grandchildren and living on a fixed income. We're  now trying to figure out how we can start a feeding program in the East Lake area that will help feed the grandparents,"Newsome said.

WDEF made an attempt to contact Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke to get his take on the article by the New York Times but he was not available for an interview.

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