Monday, June 3, 2013

Current Needs List

Here at the the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, we serve over 180,000 meals per year, serving three meals every day to hundreds of people.  If you have any of these items sitting unused in your pantry or if you are going to the grocery store this week, please consider donating one of these items!

Immediate Needs

8 oz. Styrofoam Bowls
Styrofoam Plates
Plastic Forks/Spoons
Pasta - any size
Dry Milk

Ongoing Needs

Block Butter
#10 Cans of Fruit/Vegetables
Coffee Creamer
Cooking Oil
Canned Tuna
Lunch Meat
Sandwich Zip Lock Bags
Brown Paper Lunch Bags
Metal Forks/Spoons

Please bring donations to 727 E. 11st Street - drop off under the green awning.  Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pets and the Homeless

Last week at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, Dr. Liz Boggan generously donated her time and resources to treat the pets of our homeless clients.  Each of the dogs and cats were updated on their vaccinations, de-wormed and examined for health problems, as well as scheduled for spay and neuter at the owner’s request at McKamey Animal Center free of charge.  We want to thank her so much for coming out!

There are an estimated 3.5 million individuals who experience homelessness every year in the US, but that number is dwarfed by the number of pets who are homeless.  While it is difficult to actually estimate how many strays are out there, 5 – 7 million animals enter shelters every year, indicating that the homeless pet population must be much larger.  Around 65% of the animals who enter shelters are euthanized: 3 – 4 million pets are put down every year.

Pets can provide companionship and support sometimes beyond what humans can give each other!  Given that homelessness can often be a lonely and isolating experience, it is no wonder that those experiencing homelessness would want to have a pet.  In fact, the Executive Director of the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 5% - 10% of homeless individuals have pets, with those numbers reaching up to 25% in rural areas. 

However, it is imperative for the sake of the owner and the pet for each individual to approach the experience responsibly.  Many homeless shelters will not allow individuals to bring in an animal and owning a pet could also be a barrier to housing.  More than that, properly caring for a pet can be a significant financial burden, including not just food and shelter, but also medical expenses to ensure the animal’s health. 

We are constantly working to end the condition of homelessness in Chattanooga and always innovating new ways to get our clients back into a job, back into financial stability, and back in permanent housing!  We are all about the solutions that are not just a band-aid on the problem, but a long-term fix.  For pets, part of the solution to end the terrible overpopulation problem is to spay and neuter both strays and our pets.   

Both people and pets need stability and the resources for necessary care.  At the Community Kitchen, we encourage our clients to put off pet ownership until they can get back into steady housing and have the means and the comfort to care for another.  

For more information or resources on low-cost or free spay and neuter programs for pets or feral animals, visit McKamey Animal Center or Wally's Friends.  Both programs also offer low-cost vaccinations.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Formerly homeless, local artist Jack Lane is organizing art show

When Jack first came into the Community Kitchen over a decade ago, he walked into the kitchen’s Consider the Lilies Thrift Store and asked Denyce Carlock for a job. The two are fast friends now, but at the time Denyce said he came off as arrogant.

“Is this all you’ve got?” He asked Denyce, looking around the menagerie of donated men’s and women’s clothes, stray lamps and alarm clocks, sets of dishes and cookware, soap and toiletries.  

Before he moved back to his hometown of Chattanooga, Jack worked in Chicago selling men’s clothing and shoes and made a good living doing it. 

“I had a gift for gab,” he boasts. “I once sold a guy a suit, a tie, shoes, the whole nine yards – and he was off to pay a bill!”

Local artist Jack Lane and Denyce Carlock from the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.
Clients often come into the thrift store asking him for advice on what shoes to buy or clothes to wear for interviews.  Even when he was homeless, he says that he always kept himself up.  Many people never knew that he was a cocaine addict and spent his nights out on the streets. 

“It’s so easy to lose it all,” he explains, “and then it’s hell getting back up.” 

Jack found it difficult to wrap his head around the transition: from a fast-paced, high-culture lifestyle in Chicago to scraping by on the streets in Chattanooga and spending every waking moment looking for his next high.  A graduate from Chattanooga State Community College with a degree in advertising and art, Jack was a top student with prospects.  One of his professors even got him a full scholarship to an art school in Memphis where he would travel to New York and Paris and Italy to study. 

Jack became addicted to cocaine during a long period of unemployment.  While he was studying at Chattanooga State, he bought a house with a school teacher he was dating.  With a mortgage and his relationship on the line, he turned down the scholarship to art school and started looking for work in Chattanooga. When his job opportunities started falling through and his confidence began waning, he did not feel he could move to a bigger job market. 

Jack does not really say what finally led him to walk out, but he was chronically homeless for several years.

He made his drug money through odd jobs as a landscaper and petty theft.  In one story, Jack talks about losing two years: his girlfriend at the time wanted to celebrate his 58th birthday, and he insisted that he was only 56 years old until she made him do the math. 

“You have your circle, and that’s all that matters,” he says. “Your family and friends become your enemies.  The drug addicts are your friends.” 

He got to the point where he was so paranoid about what he might do when he was high or what others might do that he started getting high alone.  He says that he does not understand what makes some people strong enough to beat addiction while others just cannot seem to, but everyone is different.  Every once in a while, he will remember a funny thing that happened while he was high and laugh and laugh.  For Jack, it seems like he was almost an expert at the lifestyle – it was not living on the streets that was hard, just what he had to give up to be there.
Jack’s art work at his west side apartment.

Occasionally, he would spend the night at his daughter’s house and see his two granddaughters.  He credits his grandchildren as at least half of the reason why he was able to beat his addiction. 

“Look, Daddy, you can’t come here like this,” his daughter told him one night.  “Your granddaughters are old enough to know, and they shouldn't have to see you like this.” 

He shares a story about waking up one day in a crack house.  There was a radio evangelist talking in the background as he walked out, and one thing the evangelist said galvanized him: “God gave everybody a talent, but if you don’t use it, you will lose it.”

Five years have passed since Jack kicked his addiction.  After a heated argument between Denyce and Jack one day, he walked out of the thrift store and did not come back for over a year.  When he did return, he was clean.  A lot of people give up on you when you’re an addict, Jack explains, but Denyce never turned her back on him. 

Right now, Jack is working on a painting of a snowy egret for Denyce, an avid bird-lover. 

 Jack Lane is a local artist and former client of the Community Kitchen.  His works are on display at the Bethlehem Center and he is planning an art show for May 2013 at the Chattanooga Convention Center.   Jack volunteers at least once a week at the Consider the Lilies Thrift Store.

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's all in the feet

The Chattanooga Community Kitchen’s Foot Care program was featured in today’s edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press!  The article, Foot Care for the Homeless, highlighted the value of the program given the particular challenges that the homeless experience with their feet. 

As the article notes, when Brother Ron Fender came to us in 2002, he created a special program inspired by the ancient, Biblical tradition of washing a guest’s feet as a sign of hospitality when they enter one’s home.  The program evolved as we began to see foot care as a vital component to homeless health care as well as an incredible indicator of greater problems like diabetes and gout.

Many of the homeless carry all of their earthly belongings on their backs day-in and day-out as they trek across the city to access services, go to work, and find a safe place to sleep.  If you also consider that they often do not have access to good, supportive shoes and that the homeless are also at higher risk than the general population for infection or diseases like diabetes, we are so glad to have UTC nursing students come out and perform this incredible service! 

Last year, the Foot Care program cared for the feet of more than 200 individuals thanks to our incredible volunteers from UTC.

Learn more about the program here.  Help out by donating one of the items indicated in the TFP article