Published August 23, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
Chattanooga residents are very concerned about the people living underneath the south end of the Veterans Bridge (3rd Street overpass) and the problems the homeless individuals are causing throughout the area.
One area resident posted to social media that the trash, debris, and human waste under Veterans Bridge gets worse every week.
“Nobody should exist like this,” the resident said.
A Belvoir resident said that, “At this rate, East Gate will become unrentable and all the small businesses in that area will flee to other parts of town that the City has not abandoned.”
Prior to occupying the seat of Chattanooga Mayor, Mayor-elect Tim Kelly in April stated that the issues at the Veteran’s bridge were a big priority for him.
Kelly told Channel 3, “There’s a City Commission on this that I’ll be looking to convene as soon as possible to hear their ideas. Of course, we’ll be looking for a new head of public works and looking at how we can reboot the entire departmental process to get things cleaned up and keep them clean.”
Another resident from the Chattanooga area stated that the issues are possibly even worse in Lookout Valley at the last underpass before Black Creek.
“I see people laying on the concrete so close to the road…before this, they were sleeping in hammocks also near the road, trash EVERYWHERE,” they state.
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A resident of the Southside Historic District reported that there was a small group of homeless individuals living under the overpass on Main and Central but the area was “cleaned out.” However, the resident reports that there seems to be an even larger group congregating on Workman Road.
The Chattanooga area has many resources for homeless individuals but it seems that many of the individuals would rather continue living as they do rather than take advantage of the free services intended to help them out of their situations.
One area resident stated that, “We have actually stopped and spoken with some. Beyond seeking a ‘handout’ from me, they had no interest in hearing about the options and avenues the area has available for them. The common response was ‘too many rules.’ To me, it seems like they prefer living on the streets. I wasn’t going to enable them by giving out cash…So basically, I was ‘dissed’ by them.
A resident from the Scenic Hwy said, “If you ask these people they will tell you they prefer living on the streets. If they go to a shelter, they have to give up their habits. They also don’t like to take their meds. That still doesn’t excuse the City. Go over behind Walter A Woods and look at the huge homeless camp there. Some months ago, they removed off the creek and brought in large equipment and dumpsters to clean up. They just moved down the street on the opposite side.”
There are over 200 agencies in Chattanooga tasked with helping the homeless and dialing 211 put individuals in contact with the agency tasked with dealing with their specific issue.
However, some residents suggest that helping the homeless is actually adding to the problem.
A resident of Lower Normal Park states, “Maybe the solution is to quit helping them. Then maybe, they will start helping themselves.”
The resident went on to say that a year’s restriction on squatting, panhandling, etc. Might give them the chance to “clean up.”
A resident from Lower North Shore responded saying, “This does not seem totally unreasonable. If resources are available through the Homeless Coalition, yet these individuals willfully and knowingly choose not to accept assistance, but instead continue to create a public nuisance, we as taxpaying citizens have the right and responsibility to enforce the basic rules of civil society. Why will our government officials not do so?”
In December of last year, the Chattanooga City Council determined the city was suffering from a lack of enforcement of city codes already in place for two of the problems associated with the homeless population, panhandling and littering.
In June of this year, the Tennessee Conservative submitted an Open Records request and it was revealed that only two tickets had been issued for the year, up to that point, for panhandling.
One belief is that the panhandling ordinance is not being enforced due to general public’s misconception that all panhandlers are truly needy homeless individuals.
In a City Council meeting in November, Councilwoman Berz stressed that this is not the case.
She stated that the homeless are a different group of people that the city should make every effort to help but, “The panhandlers are part of a group… They have handlers who pick up their money. It’s a whole different ball of wax,” Berz stated.
Berz expressed that the Police Department is aware of the situation and that her constituents found out when trying to be helpful by buying meals for some of the panhandlers.
She stated that the panhandlers got in trouble with their handlers “for not being out there begging.”
Mark Pulliam, Tennessee resident and contributor to the Tennessee Conservative states, “Rampant panhandling is an early sign of urban decay, followed by public drunkenness/drug use, and finally occupation by vagrants.”
The Tennessee Conservative has reached out to City Council Members and the Chattanooga Mayor’s office but have not received comment at the time of publication.
The Veterans Bridge is in Chattanooga City Council District 1, which is represented by Councilman Chip Henderson. Henderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at (423) 643 –7186.
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly’s office can be reached at email@example.com or phone at (423) 643-7800.
We will publish updates as new information come to light.