Calling You Out, Coty Wamp!
Don’t use your DA bully pulpit to stoke hate for homeless people
Coming off a meaningful event, Memorial Blanket Project, commemorating the deaths and lives of people experiencing homelessness on National Homeless Memorial Day, December 21, I’m just a little worked up about the latest antics of the newly-elected Hamilton County TN District Attorney Coty Wamp.
She managed to grab headlines, ‘Free hotel rooms for child molesters,’ and sent an email to county board members criticizing
… local agencies providing temporary housing for people with criminal records who were displaced by the closure of the Budgetel Inn last month…
On November 16, 2022, Wamp issued an order to evict everyone, hundreds of people, staying at the East Ridge, TN Budgetel Inn. All because she said 4 sex offenders were living in the hotel.
No warning. No alternative plans. No consideration for disabled people, families, pregnant women, those without cars, those who couldn’t pack up in the 4 hours allotted, those without means to find alternative housing, no refunds of the hundreds of dollars occupants paid upfront. No nothing.
Both the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County board voted to chip in $50,000 each to add to the donations being collected by the incredible Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition to pay for rooms for those unable to come up with the impossible amount of money on their own.
Now Coty is wamping about who is getting helped, claiming criminals are benefiting by the City and County’s largesse. Her ‘compassion’ is evident as she said,
I also wish that we would focus our resources on the children and placing them in permanent housing, rather than housing criminal offenders.
How benevolent! What BS!
She spends considerable effort painting homeless people as criminals. Every specially selected word and phrase was applied like a true hate artist. Her action on Nov. 16, ostensibly for the good of the children, pushed them all to the streets.
Let Me Ask…
I’m an outsider, visiting Chattanooga for a few days earlier this month, on my own dime, because her mass eviction, an under-reported humanitarian crisis, was getting little attention. I spoke to several people involved and read up on this new county DA’s horrific power trip. Clearly, her knowledge of homelessness is wamping, er, wanting. Let me offer the benefit of my 35 years working with homeless families and adults.
My socratic questions:
What do you think happens when you oust those you have declared to be criminals from their humble, expensive digs?
Some may go away, but most will look for other places to stay, since everyone needs a place to call home. They’ll stay at other hotels. Or with friends/acquaintences. Or in vehicles, abandoned buildings. They sure as hell won’t camp on public property since TN has made that a criminal offense. Some, too many, will end up back in police custody, and will bolster the bottom line of the “corrections industry,” which will make the DA happy.
Did you think about throwing out the proverbial ‘baby with the bathwater’ as you booted the families out with the adults?
As Joseph’s 10th birthday approached (Dec. 14, the first deadline when donations might dry up), he stressed to me about whether his family would become homeless. What would you say to him? And the 150+ other kids you ousted?
Why are you just now paying attention to the well-being of families? Your ‘concern’ seems shallow?
If you were concerned, you wouldn’t have booted them without prior warning or alternative arrangements from their accommodations. The trauma you caused these families won’t just evaporate because of another DA edict. Nor will the barriers to permanent housing just melt.
How about taking a quick course in family homelessness?
With apologies for reaching north of the Mason Dixie line for examples, I offer 2 excellent recent accounts of family homelessness that defy stereotypes bedeviling “the homeless” these days:
- From Rhode Island — https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/12/17/metro/how-hard-working-middle-class-family-spiraled-into-homelessness/
- From Connecticut —
Visit my website, www.hearus.us, for plenty more accounts, from all over the country. You can binge watch if you so desire. And read my books.
Clearly you have lots to learn, DA Wamp. One last little secret I discovered — sadly, when kids experience homelessness, it can lead to them being homeless as adults. Maybe that’s your point.
What caring people can do to help:
- Donate to the emergency fund housing families and adults: www.homelesscoalition.org. 100% of your donation provides rooms. (Yes, I’ve donated.)
- Buy a Kindle copy of my organization’s guide, The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids. $1.99. (It was compiled by North Carolina school staff.) The county school district can use support as they try to mitigate the trauma of this eviction.