Shhhh…No Home for the Holidays

Scrooge-ish Chattanooga Officials Quietly Leave Folks Hanging

Diane Nilan
4 min readDec 15, 2022

--

I showed up with my video camera Monday at the Hamilton County TN hearing more in solidarity with the hundreds of former Budgetel occupants than thinking I’d get any news scoop. What I got was a clear sense of how little some people matter (not a surprise) and how dysfunctional “the system” is (not a surprise, either).

Let’s take the word “hearing.” Forget hearing as far as ears go. For whatever reason, Hamilton County Boyd Patterson didn’t use the court’s microphones. Really? I wasn’t the only one that didn’t really hear what was going on. Even the attorney for the hotel had a hard time, and he was standing in front.

From news accounts, the results of the non-hearing were not surprising. My issues with how hundreds of wrongfully displaced occupants were treated continued to expand. From the git-go, Hamilton County District Attorney Coty Wamp showed utter disregard for humanity and truth. “Those people” mean nothing to her, it seems.

Imagine if 4 sex offenders were known to be living at the Ritz Carlton. And let’s say police had been called to that establishment an inordinate amount of times. Not hard to imagine. Would the DA oust ALL the hotel occupants with no notice, giving a 4-hour timeline, with sheriffs walking around with guns drawn? My example limps, I know, because the RC customers would have the means to get their stuff out and move onto somewhere else. But it wouldn’t happen, perhaps because of income differences.

The other difference — the RC customers would get immediate refunds. The Budgetel customers — still waiting, a month later, ostensibly because the East Ridge police department seized the hotel’s hard drives. Really? What about letting folks back into their rooms to get the rest of their stuff?

Humanity — No Room for You

The human side of this debacle is one that troubles me most. People weren’t staying at the Budgetel because of the plush accoutrements. They were there, for the most part, because it was cheap.

Maybe they didn’t have money to rent an apartment (income that’s 3 times monthly rent is the current standard). Maybe they’ve been evicted. Maybe they have a police record that turns off property managers. Maybe they have too many kids. Maybe they have pets.

Face it, we have plenty of people in every community who struggle to survive. That doesn’t make them bad people. In fact, most of the “bad people” are ones with resources and the opportunity to make choices, albeit often bad ones. And we, those with resources, must accept our responsibility to make sure people’s basic human needs are met.

To me, it seemed Judge Patterson doesn’t know anything about people in poverty. No one represented them at this non-hearing. Their needs were not considered at all.

Questions

  • How do the Hamilton County deciders think folks are supposed to keep their fragile lives together after this upheaval?
  • How do the get their uniforms to go to work?
  • How do they get their kids back and forth to school and activities?
  • How do they get their medications?
  • How do they even sleep knowing that the roof over their family’s heads depend on the largess of the public and the donations of the city and county?
  • How do they tell the kids about Santa Claus finding them?

Bless Their Hearts…

As of last night (12/14, little Joseph’s birthday), the Hamilton County board voted to kick in $50,000, adding to the city’s $50,000 to help keep people in motels for awhile. Sure, that’s nice. Charitable, even. Even this was not without reluctance.

The DA’s brother, Weston Wamp, who is the Hamilton County Mayor (how convenient that the Wamp’s have a tight rein on things), showed his true Christmas spirit and cluelessness.

The county mayor said some steps could be taken without new county spending. He said he had talked with some East Ridge motel owners who were willing to provide as many as 20 rooms for some of those displaced in Lookout Valley. He said it would be at a cheaper rate. He said that would be closer to their jobs in most cases.

The county mayor also said that Section 8 units were being “fast tracked” to help the situation, with 22 units already made available.

I didn’t stick around Chattanooga long enough to conduct remedial training for those knowing nothing about poverty and homelessness. I’d suspect the only “fast track” that the Mayor is concerned about is a sled ride to a warm place for the holidays.

If I had stuck around, I’d probably file an ADA (American with Disabilities Act) complaint for the lack of amplification in the non-hearing. And I’d make sure Joseph and his family had a nice Christmas.

The incredible Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition continues to collect donations, 100% being used to provide a place to stay for the Budgetel evictees. If you can contribute,

--

--

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