Happy now, DA Wamp?

You’ve caused untold suffering, homelessness, expense and death.

Diane Nilan
4 min readJan 9, 2023

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One of the Chattanooga families kicked out of their Budgetel Inn in November.
One of the Chattanooga families kicked out of their Budgetel Inn in November. Their story: https://youtu.be/KcQf59BeNPw Photo Diane Nilan

Two months ago, hundreds of people — adults and kids — were scratching out their beleaguered lives at the equally-beleaguered Budgetel Inn on the outskirts of Chattanooga, TN. This quasi-homeless shelter was better than living on the streets, although it cost more than an apartment would.

Before the crack of dawn on the blustery morning of November 16, sheriffs with guns drawn knocked on each of the hundreds of rooms in this sprawling complex telling occupants that they had 4 hours to get out, per the Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp. Other than 4 known sex offenders, the estimated 800 people staying in this facility had done no wrong.

Sleepy, stressed kids, would miss school that day, as they and their parents gathered up what they could, shoving stuff in plastic bags and bedraggled suitcases. Elderly, disabled and befuddled adults crammed their most precious belongings in whatever containers they could. Most lacked a way of moving stuff or any place to put it once it got there. A few lucky people with vehicles stuffed their possessions in their cars and drove off. Folks at work when the gestapo-like ouster happened trickled back during the morning, shocked at the unexpected turn of events. A handful of others not “at home” when the mass eviction happened were not able to claim their stuff or their vehicles after the 4 hour deadline.

Belongings unable to be gathered remained in the rooms. All of those staying at the hotel had prepaid for weeks or the month. None got their payment refunded, precious dollars that would have eased the ouster a little bit at least. In a court session almost a month later, the judge made tentative arrangements with the motel owner to let people back in to get the rest of their possessions. If they were lucky, they’d also get a refund.

School officials had received minimal advance notice that the 75 or so school kids would have their fragile lives disrupted. School busses were sent to the hotel parking lot with school personnel to meet with students and parents. They promised to make transportation arrangements from wherever the families landed. They reassured students that they’d be able to stay in their schools, per federal law.

Those elderly, disabled and frail occupants with their hastily packed belongings relied on abled-bodied neighbors to move their stuff. Most had no idea what would happen to them, or where they’d be staying that evening and beyond. And it was oh, so cold.

Two women, mothers, reportedly died as a result of this mass eviction. Details were not released on their death, but officials with knowledge of these tragedies confirmed the story.

The Budgetel was locked up on November 16, with multiple signs posted throughout the property.
The Budgetel was locked up on November 16, with multiple signs posted throughout the property. Photo Diane Nilan

This humanitarian disaster was caused by the newly-elected Hamilton County District Attorney, Coty Wamp. She claimed it was concern for the welfare of the children staying at Budgetel. Convicted sex offenders, 4 of them, lurked on the property. She brutally smeared the other ne’er-do-wells also calling this hotel “home.” Easily tainted, Wamp pointed to all the police calls made to this, one of many area extended-stay facilities that harbor the otherwise house-less outcasts forced by circumstances to hole up in these 21st Century shelters.

Trying Desperately to Help

In a desperate attempt to mitigate this unnoticed humanitarian disaster, a gallant effort was made by the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition to find places for hundreds of Wamp-made-refugees. Their compassionate staff fanned out to help schlep belongings down to the front of the hotel, reassuring everyone that they’d find places for them to stay. Easier said than done, but at the end of the day, those with no options were at least placed in other motels and hotels.

The coalition began a massive fundraising effort. They delivered food to parking lots of the new homeless hotels. They aggressively pushed applications for scarce subsidized housing and scrounged for property managers willing to rent to the displaced, many of whom have tainted credit histories.

Faux Concern

In the aftermath, the DA continues to ooze fake compassion for the children. Her brother, the county mayor, is reportedly exploring possibilities to convert an abandoned school into a low-barrier shelter for families (someone ought to check on the financial arrangements being pondered with this proposal). This would be too late for those his sister kicked to the curb. He bestowed Christmas gifts on these Wamp-made-waifs, a great photo op for hiz honor.

But now time’s up for an estimated 73 families. The coalition placed as many house-less households as they could into other extended stay facilities or rental housing. But the clock ran out for the rest. No money. No options.

In the name of law and order, the top county official who claimed concern for the wellbeing of homeless families has now caused them to be even more homeless. Nice work, Coty.

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Diane Nilan

Founder/pres. HEAR US Inc., gives voice & visibility to homeless families & youth, ran shelters, advocate, filmmaker, author, 18 yrs. on US backroads. hearus.us