The Interagency Council on Homelessness will look to functionally end homelessness in Chattanooga. (Photo: Contributed)

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke signed an executive order that will establish a new council to address the homelessness issue in the city.

The executive order, signed on March 19, unites several organizations and members of the community to form the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

“We’re looking to expand our services to address the systematic problems of homelessness,” Chattanooga Homeless Program Coordinator Sam Wolfe said. “By bringing more people to the table, we can have new collaborative ideas, we can build a plan to address homelessness at each community level, and we can have a platform to implement that plan.”

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The council will be responsible for creating a long-term plan to functionally end homelessness in Chattanooga, establish measurable goals and report at least annually to the public, create opportunities for the public to be involved with the council’s work and improve existing responses and systems that assist individuals experiencing homelessness.

The council includes entities representing local governments, health care, churches, foundations, service providers, businesses, neighborhoods and previously homeless people.

Some of the council members include representatives from the Chattanooga Police Department, the Hamilton County government, the MacLellan Foundation, the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and the MLK Neighborhood Association.

“With business, government, health and service providers at the table, we will make progress,” Berke said.

The council’s first step, which will take place within the next few weeks, will be to build a long-term plan for tackling the issue.

To begin, the council will establish a planning committee consisting of people from entities involved with the council.

The council will also begin searching for an outside consultant to help define the plan.

A candidate is expected to be chosen in the next few weeks.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah.

Updated at 9:40 a.m. on March 20 to correct a name. Sam Wolfe is the Chattanooga Homeless Program Coordinator, not Tyler Yount, as originally reported.

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