U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today in Chattanooga that increased support for homeless assistance programs will help places like the Chattanooga Community Kitchen better serve the less fortunate people of Tennessee. Alexander today visited the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, a non-profit, freestanding social service agency that has served the Chattanooga area for 25 years.
“These are tough economic times and a lot of people are hurting,” said Alexander, a member of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee that funds most affordable housing and homeless assistance programs. “We need to help people who are homeless now and do what we can to prevent more people from losing their homes.”
Alexander voted for the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), which became law in July. It contains a number of provisions to help people avoid becoming homeless, including an increase in the availability of affordable housing and measures to aid people to avoid home foreclosure. The new law also increased assistance for those who are already homeless. For example, the bill boosted funding for the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program and allows for emergency assistance to school districts coping with growing numbers of students who have become homeless due to foreclosure of their home or rental property.
Alexander also said that since Fiscal Year 2005 there has been a more than 28 percent increase in funding for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants, which provide housing and supportive services to homeless families and individuals across the country. Homeless Assistance Grants, also known as McKinney-Vento grants, are the primary federal funding source for local efforts to reduce the harm caused by homelessness and help homeless people move back into permanent housing.
Alexander also spoke with Jens Christensen, a staff member at the kitchen, who spoke about the effects they are feeling from the recent economic slowdown. “On the funding side you see a giant increase in the amount of needs we are being requested to meet, and at the same time there is a giant decrease in the amount of funds available because everyone is having a harder time donating,” Christensen said.
“The work being done here at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen is truly inspiring,” Alexander said. “Last year, the kitchen served over 121,000 meals to needy Chattanoogans. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act passed by Congress will increase funding for homeless assistance programs just like this one so we can ensure that everyone gets the food and shelter they need.”