published Monday, March 21st, 2011

CHA claims vending machine, laundry money

  • photo
    A sign at a Chattanooga Housing Authority apartment informs residents about how profits from vending machines on premises can no longer be put toward resident events but must be turned over to CHA. Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Public housing residents living in high-rise buildings for the elderly and disabled have grown accustomed to using proceeds from vending machines and laundry facilities to pay for Christmas parties and other activities.

But Chattanooga Housing Authority officials recently told residents that the money must be put into the housing authority’s general fund instead.

“It is pretty cheesy for them to take that money,” said Carl Kendricks, president of Gateway Towers. “They should be doing things to help residents.”

The money provided Christmas parties, cookouts and bingo game prizes for more than 500 elderly and disabled residents living in CHA’s three high-rise buildings: Gateway Towers, Boynton Terrace and Mary Walker Towers.

Kendricks is among several resident leaders disappointed that the money, which he said residents had used for years, no longer will be available.

“It’s not like the housing authority is going broke,” he said. “All the money they get in rent from residents. It’s really sad to take the money.”

Together, the three high-rise buildings generate about $10,000 a year from laundry services. And Boynton, the largest site, got about $300 a year from snack machines, said CHA officials.

CHA Resident Services Director Carol Johnson said the authority decided to take the money after she attended a CHA-hosted budget training session.

During that meeting, June Oliver, financial analyst with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said that “any proceeds from sales from vending or laundry facilities are to be put into the Chattanooga Housing Authority’s general fund,” according to a letter dated Feb. 28 that Johnson sent to resident council members.

“We have been advised by HUD to make the necessary corrections to ensure that these housing authority funds are accounted for accurately,” Johnson wrote in the letter. “The CHA is to make these changes effected immediately.”

Residents at Mary Walker Towers are especially surprised by the decision because it was the residents who initiated efforts to get the vending machines. The Coca-Cola machine at Mary Walker was brought in during the late 1990s and residents got the snack machine about five years ago, said Mary Ruth Robinson, a CHA board member and president of Mary Walker Towers.

“We called the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and asked them to bring the machines in here,” she said.

She said the activities financed by the vending machine and laundry money motivate elderly and disabled residents to get out of their rooms and participate in group gatherings.

Residents can’t have programs without money, Kendricks said. HUD provides some money to pay for snacks during monthly meetings, but its use is restricted, said Joe Clark, president of Boynton.

Money can be used to buy peanuts and chips, but not the meat and full-menu items served at a Christmas party, Clark said.

Kendricks said he had hoped to use the money eventually to get new furniture in the lobby at Gateway and a lectern for people who lead Bible study meetings.

Clark said that, despite HUD’s statement that the money is to be put in the general fund, CHA could allow residents to use proceeds from the vending machines.

“The money should be used for the benefit of the residents, for picnics, card games, pingpong balls, bingo gifts, anything residents want,” Clark said. “It’s their money.”

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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alohaboy said...

CHA provides the space, utilities, etc. HUD is right, CHA should keep the money. I'm a taxpayer. No free lunch.

March 21, 2011 at 9:46 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

Gee Whiz Alohaboy!! Where's your compassion for your fellowman? These people are elderly and poor and have to live in pretty bleak surroundings. A nice Christmas party or a friendly Bingo game sounds pretty harmless to me. I'm a taxpayer too but I'm for letting the residents keep the money for a party/game.

Obviously you've never been down on your luck and had to make due with just a SS/SSI check...the checks don't always make it til the end of the month...I wouldn't be so quick to begrudge someone a little sunshine...Lighten Up!

March 21, 2011 at 10:07 a.m.
alohaboy said...

They live in subsidized housing, get SS/SSI that is also subsidized by taxpayers, probably get subsidized food stamps and are provided subsidized healthcare. Look outside for the sunshine. The Government is broke and we just blew about $500 Million setting up a "no fly zone" over Libya. Stop the wars and maybe we could afford that "little bit of sunshine".

March 21, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.
HannaBeckman said...

Ok eastridge8,I want you to donate weekly to the residents general party fund, since you are so adament in your beliefs. please post here the amount/when/where/ and how you are to donate the cash. Put up or shut up, as the saying goes

March 21, 2011 at 4:24 p.m.
bpqd said...

There is nothing wrong with making sure the funds are accounted for and then spending them on a small party for the residents. I don't see why the new method can't be used to support the old results.

March 21, 2011 at 7:49 p.m.
bamareb said...

Well there is one sure fire way to beat this and it's called BOYCOTT. Don't buy cokes or snacks from them and take your wash else where. If they want to get greedy and that what has always been yours to begin with and put it in their pockets to pay for their parties and what not then don't give it to them to begin with.

March 22, 2011 at 6:13 a.m.
easttn said...

I hope out side people can help the people there. I do not live in the area. If some one talk to the local business, they might get them donate food or money for the christmas party. I know if they talk to the diffence walmart mangers.They should be able donate to them . Check with other stores

March 22, 2011 at 10:47 a.m.
mrredskin said...

Separation of Chattanooga's airport code and the Housing Authority, please.

March 22, 2011 at 4:59 p.m.

They are getting there money back for all those people who left the housing autority and did not pay them there rent. CHA is in debt because they did not collect back rent payment from these people so that is why they are doing this.

March 22, 2011 at 8:14 p.m.
Amos_Ives_Root said...

CHA is in debt because they got ripped off by a bunch of republican real estate developers in the boom time.

if you want an example just drive by the huge gaping hole that is the 700 block of market street.

March 23, 2011 at 12:13 a.m.
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