Who We Are
We started brainstorming how we could fill the gaps that we were seeing when it comes to servicing Chattanooga’s homeless community. We decided to develop a mobile service that would deliver survival support to the area’s camps, and we would supply: food, water, tents, tarps, solar lights, sleeping bags, firewood, toiletries, etc. About a year into our work, we began working with Causeway, a social justice idea incubator, who helped us focus our goals and vision. We started by visiting the camps and doing outreach on the streets. One of our missions has always been that we don’t want to ask people (the homeless) to come see us; we are intent and content to go to them; to forge relationships and instill in them that we see them as members of our community, not as unimportant problems to merely be dealt with. Our hope has always been that by offering these services to the most vulnerable citizens, empathy for and engagement with them will evolve from other sectors of the population.
During our first year as a 501c3, we partnered with the Homeless Healthcare Center, became a finalist for Causeway’s Changemaker of the Year 2019, made a short documentary about the homeless crisis in Chattanooga, and were nominated for the Call to Action award by the Red Cross. Help Right Here was picking up speed just as the homeless crisis and lack of affordable housing in Chattanooga were rapidly increasing.
Currently, the city of Chattanooga has one of the fastest increasing rent rates in the nation, and that, along with the closing of several low-income facilities, is creating a phenomenal spike in the number of homeless people. As long as rents soar and gentrification continues to happen in town, the homeless population will continue to increase. This crisis has opened our eyes, and our future goals have expanded.
Through our outreach and developing relationships with the underprivileged, we realized that we needed to do more to help our clients survive while on the streets and thrive when they get housing and get off the streets. As of now, we provide outreach on the streets, at camps, and help people who have received housing to get their places furnished. Additionally, during COVID, we started a program called Artists in Transition. Artists in Transition is a group of local homeless or recently homeless Chattanoogans along with local photographer, Amy McKay, and WanderLinger Art Gallery curator, Rik Hermann. They come together in the camps to paint, sketch, and photograph. Their art raises funds for the artists themselves. So far, Artists in Transition has had two art shows at WanderLinger with the next one set for October of this year.
Our newest responsibility has become putting the pieces together for the funding to open the first transitional and supportive village in Chattanooga. This is especially crucial right now, since as a result of COVID, we have seen a steady increase of the homeless population.
Our project will reduce the number of homeless people on the streets of Chattanooga while supporting them to reach a better place in life when they are housed. Residents at this village will be in a safe, stable, non-violent environment. Within this environment case workers will work with residents to obtain all necessary paperwork and identification. Case workers will also work with clients on work and housing, as well as medications and health issues. The goal would be for all residents to have permanent employment and supportive housing within a 3 months time frame.
The ultimate goal is for each person to find her or his way into a permanent supportive home, and feel safe and confident in the world around them. This project will get people and their belongings off the streets and by doing so, the city will have less trash and cleaner streets. There will be less violence as a result of less police interaction. With residents in a supportive village camp, it will be easier to help with their health and housing needs. This will be a great interim before supportive permanent housing. It will be cost effective: less money spent on bulldozing camps, cleaning up trash on the streets, and less use of the police department. The village residents would also learn how to successfully re-enter the community.
In the past two years we have evolved to the point where we have gotten grants and other funding to travel to Seattle, WA, to learn from organizations there who have shown us a streamlined process for helping get people off the streets and stay off the streets. We want to recreate a similar streamline process in Chattanooga.
We have spent a good bit of our energy this year focused on figuring out a process of keeping people successfully housed. We met with organizations who helped manage resident run city sanctioned, non-profit run tent encampments. We spent an afternoon at Pallet Homes in Evergreen, WA. A Pallet Home is a home in a kit. Very durable, and most importantly, lockable and the product we plan to use for our Village. We met with a group called Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). They began much as we did, just over 30 years ago. They now managed 16 supportive tiny home villages and 65 supportive permanent housing units.
This project has the possibility of changing Chattanooga quickly and drastically and all for the better. This Village will hopefully force the necessity for permanent supportive housing in Chattanooga and help with a beautiful, much needed, permanent change.
It takes a village to make a village.
We need your help and support, pretty please. Our first Pallet Shelter will arrive in mid-February. Be sure to drive down 11th Street and check her out!
Our Board of Directors
Kathleen Pinson, MBA
She worked as a sales and marketing professional for several local Chattanooga media outlets for 15+ years, before moving into the global event industry. Her titles include Magazine Sales Director, Exhibitions Sales Manager, and Conference and Event Manager for some of the worlds largest event companies. Currently she is Vice President of Pinson Group International, a business brokerage firm in Chattanooga.
Babs Gresko, M.Ed.
She has 47 years experience with the under-privileged. Most recently employed with the Homeless Healthcare Center for 8+ years as a Case Manager.
She is an attorney who has been practicing in Chattanooga for 14 years at Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, PC, where she is currently a shareholder. She has a varied practice which includes the formation and maintenance of for-profit and 501c3 corporations, including serving as general counsel for nonprofits and charities, providing human resources guidance, and representing for-profit and non-profit entities in various types of litigation. She also provides representation to clients in complex litigation matters. She is a member of the Chattanooga Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, and the Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Cumberland Trails Conference, a nonprofit organization responsible for building much of Tennessee’s Cumberland Trail.
He has been the National Public Affairs Specialist at the Social Security Administration for 26 years. He is responsible for maintaining work relationships with national organizations, special interest groups, and other government agencies for the purpose of presenting, explaining, and advocating Social Security’s views, positions and programs; and conversely, to solicit the views, positions, overall reaction to Social Security programs, policies, and initiatives of those organizations, groups and agencies. Prior to working as the National Public Affairs Specialist, he was a Social Insurance Specialist for 14 years and a Financial Advisor for 4+ years.
He is the Community Kitchen Chaplain and has had multiple positions with various agencies working with the homeless and serving on multiple boards.
She is the Program Manager for the Maclellan Shelter for Families which is part of the Community Kitchen. She has been employed by them for 25+ years as a Case Manager for the homeless.