Homeless Coalition Respond to Critical Wamp Letter

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp sent a letter to the Hamilton County Commission criticizing the placement of certain individuals displaced by the Budgetel Evictions.

Her criticism was aimed directly at the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition. In the letter, she says that many of the displaced residents from the Budgetel have previous criminal records.

She references a list of residents given to her by Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly’s Chief of Staff Joda Thongnopuna in a previous letter. It is important to note that Thongnopnua mentions in that letter that he wished for the list of residents to be minimally shared to protect the identities of the residents.

On that list, Wamp highlights 27 names that have documented criminal histories in Hamilton County, with an additional 22 names redacted to protect minors.

In particular she singles out a registered sex offender that she says is currently staying at a motel with the help of the Homeless Coalition.

She says that she does not ask for any direct action from the Commission, but argues that resources should go to children instead of quote “housing criminal offenders”. The Housing Coalition received funding from both the city and the county to help their emergency hotel funds.

They say that their number one priority is making sure that people are taken care of.

Mackenzie Kelly, the Community Engagement Director for the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition, said that, “After the Budgetel was shut down, we had an influx of people entering homelessness. It was our role as an organization and help coordinate that response with our partner agencies, and that’s exactly what we have done.”

Their focus is not on what a person in need might have done in their past ,but how to get them back on their feet.

Kelly said that, “It’s our role as an agency to serve these folks. We are a housing first agency, which means we do not require background checks. We do not believe that is a determinant for whether you deserve housing or not.”

The Hamilton County Commission has not openly made any decisions related to Wamp’s letter.

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