Chattanooga to relocate homeless residents from railroad properties
Railroad company and city committed to keeping encampments safe
CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — The city of Chattanooga and Norfolk Southern are working together to relocate some at-risk homeless encampments by May 31 after some residents were found walking on the company’s tracks and climbing aboard their trains.
“There [were] a few events that happened very recently that elevated their safety concerns about the property,” said Sam Wolfe, Chattanooga’s director of homelessness and support housing. “So we’re able to work with them to set a very long timeframe for people to vacate from their property.”
To see the moves done properly, the transport company will provide necessary finances, while the city arranges further resources such as Section 8 Housing vouchers and public housing units.
Some could also be located to a more secure sanction encampment off of 12th Street, which will provide on-scene bathroom facilities and case management.
“Those people are going to go out and have housing resources made available to them through the Housing Authority on a preferential status because they are being displaced,” Wolfe said.
The solutions, while necessary, are only to be temporary.
Chattanooga’s true goal is to create affordable housing for those without a home.
Interim CEO of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen David Costellow says several organizations are still committed to helping the city achieve that goal.
“We believe that working together is the best way to do it,” Costellow said. “We work with the Homeless Coalition, with the city, anybody to try to meet the needs that’s there. It’s a growing homeless population, there [are] a lot of struggles to find affordable housing and other things. We can do so much more together, so that’s what we try to do.”
For now, those that will be displaced from the railroad properties could be relocated sooner than they think.
“They should be getting the first few people housed as soon as next week, potentially, if everything kind of lines up right,” Wolfe said. “So, we really are trying to act in a very expedient manner to work with these folks.”
In a quote from Norfolk Southern, the company says it’s “grateful the city recognized the safety issues at stake and for the work of the mayor’s office to find an outcome that benefits everyone.”
As for the city’s next step towards affordable housing, Wolfe said that the city plans to reveal something, quote, “historic” Thursday afternoon.