published Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

No home no longer priority on Chattanooga Housing Authority list

TURNED-DOWN RAISE

At the end of Tuesday's meeting of the Chattanooga Housing Authority board, Chairman Eddie Holmes recommended that Executive Director Betsy McCright get a 2 percent raise.

McCright declined the offer.

"I'm not comfortable with taking any additional salary," she said.

Board member Molly Cooper said turning down the opportunity for a raise because of concern for the housing authority's finances is why board members and staff appreciate McCright.

Being homeless and just having a job no longer means a person gets top priority for housing with the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

At the CHA's monthly meeting Tuesday, board members voted to eliminate homelessness as a preference for housing. Officials said they would set aside 25 Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as Section 8 vouchers, to house homeless people.

Having a voucher means that, instead of public housing, people who are homeless can find a landlord willing to accept their government-subsidized payment for rent.

Chronic homelessness and homeless were the last two of the nine preferences on the CHA's waiting list for housing.

Mary Simons, executive director of the Chattanooga Homeless Coalition, said she is OK with that.

"The [homeless] preference was so far down the list that very few people experiencing homelessness actually got the benefit of the preference, so we believe the vouchers will work better," she said.

Simons said she will rely on case managers to make referrals for people to receive the vouchers and expects them to be issued before the end of the year.

CHA officials said they usually house only a handful of homeless people a year using the preferences.

Board members also voted Tuesday to finetune the preferences list, shortening it from nine preferences to four.

Top priority goes to those in the federal witness protection program, then those dislocated by natural disaster. Third is people displaced by the government and fourth is people who have worked part-time or full-time for at least one year by the time they apply for housing.

Housing officials said they changed the work preference to require that people are on the job for a year in order to eliminate some who had been "working" the system.

They get a job, apply for housing, then quit the job after they get an apartment, said Betsy McCright, CHA's executive director.

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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