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Chattanooga Human Service Youth and Family Development public assistance programs.

The social services and public assistance available from the Chattanooga Human Service Department is extensive. The center serves as the community action agency for Hamilton County and can help the very low income in the county. They offer federal programs such as LIHEAP for paying utility bills, government grants for back rent to stop evictions, and food from programs such as SNAP. Other financial aid is provided too.

The Weatherization service is a key Hamilton County community action program. It was created to help families save money on their energy bills and reduce the total utility costs for low income eligible families. It accomplishes this by improving the efficiency of their homes while ensuring their health and safety.

The energy conservation improvements done are extensive. They can include blown insulation, installation of safe energy efficient heaters, CFL bulbs, window replacements, and even free refrigerators are some of the items that can be installed under this program.

The staff and contractors are trained in the latest energy saving techniques available. They will provide recommendations for improvements that can be made by the homeowner, and then the contractors do the work. This weatherization program allows staff to perform various services, in addition to what was mentioned above. It can also include free energy audits, offering advice and adding insulation and much more.

While limited, the department may be able to provide financial aid as a result of a federal government grant process known as CSBG. This is what makes up any Emergency Services offered by the agency. In years when it operates, Chattanooga Human Service Youth and Family Development can offer assistance to families or the elderly who are in a short term crisis situation. Funds can be used to pay rent or utility bills to prevent eviction. The grants are also used to stop disruption of utility services and on other homeless prevention services.

One key service is providing residents a central information base for community service agencies or churches in Hamilton County that can provide needed services. In other words, information and referral is an integral part of this department and they are always involved in matching the needy with the resource that addresses that need. The outreach workers from Chattanooga Human Service Youth and Family Development canvass the region linking information and programs. Some examples of programs provided are:




  • Emergency Solutions Grant - Using funds received from the Federal Emergency Management Authority as well as HUD, there may be loans or assistance for housing costs. Security deposits, rent, heating bills, and low income housing may be arranged. In general, the ESG program broadens the agencies capacity to help needy families.
  • Referrals to nearby food pantries are also part of the Emergency Services. The agency maintains a list of food banks that operate in Hamilton County Tennessee. The center also provides groceries, meals and food for special events such as flooding, hurricane, and other emergencies. There may also be bread, meat, dry goods, and vegetable.
  • Holiday assistance - During the November and December months, including Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the agency will provide referrals to seasonal programs. There are many local churches and charities that offer a large food supplement or hot meals. The recipient and low income families receive the food at no cost to them.

Receive utility bill help from LIHEAP. This was designed to encourage regular energy bill payments from the working poor and low income. The program will also promote energy awareness, and encourage reduction of utility bills through energy efficiency, client education, and weatherization per above.

In some situations, Chattanooga Human Service Youth and Family Development may administer the energy crisis intervention services. This is also available from LIHEAP, and can include medically-necessary air conditioning, emergency grants for paying electric bills to prevent a shut off, furnace repair/replacement, emergency fuel delivery, or even heaters.

Community Outreach is available from case workers. They connect those in need with organizations who can help them in Chattanooga, There may be direct financial assistance, referrals, credit counseling services, and education.

The first step to obtaining help through a social worker that is part of Community Outreach is to contact them. Those that are interested in this service can schedule an appointment with a case manager. The goal is to help people from the region achieve independence and financial stability.

The non-profit will provide information and referrals to how to get emergency assistance for shelter, rent, utilities, heat, or food. Outreach workers will also help clients with long-term goals like building assets, establishing or repairing credit scores, or managing a budget. The objective is to give people the skills, knowledge and assistance they need to lead productive and healthy lives.





Another service can include applications for federal government and state of Tennessee benefits such as WIC, food stamps, or job training. In fact, coordinating this public aid is a key function of the department. These resources can provide free food, meals, groceries, and more. The job training is available in partnership with One Stop Centers, and both the under and unemployed can get support and access to job searches.

Chattanooga Human Service Youth and Family Development Financial Education Coordinators, or partnerships with non-profit credit counseling agencies, work with individuals to assist with overall money management. Classes or workshops covering a range of topics such as budgeting, credit, predatory lending, and home ownership are offered to clients. For those people who need more personalized assistance, one-on-one counseling is available as well.

The federally funded Summer Food Service Program is for children from Chattanooga Counties. Free meals will be made available to students and eligible children 18 years of age. It will ensure that children get food and nutrition during the summer months, when they can’t qualify for a free school lunch.

In Hamilton County, charities and the Food Bank partner on the Summer Food Service Program. Parents of the children will be able to obtain advice and support too, on resources such as SNAP.

Head Start is a federally funded early childhood pre-school program available across the region. It is also the state of Tennessee’s main resource for overall child education and development. In order to enroll in this public service, children must be under the age of 5 and live in the region, including but not limited to Hamilton County. While not common, some spaces may be reserved for over income families and Head Start will also definitely help the disabled.

Comprehensive services organized by Chattanooga Human Service for children and families that are enrolled include the following. Education; Health Care; Nutrition; Family Services; Mental Health/Disabilities; Community/Family Partnerships and Transportation for children residing in designated boundaries.

Teachers and staff from Hamilton County Head Start centers also provide children with activities that help them to grow, including mentally, socially, emotionally, and physically. Staff also welcome as well as even encourage parent involvement in all activities.




Another option for even younger children is Early Head Start. This will provide safe and developmentally enriching care giving to infants and newborns. It will, among other things, promote the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of toddlers and infants from Chattanooga. It helps prepare them for future growth and development.

For more information or referrals, the main office is at 501 W. 12th Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402. For information on the public services available, dial (423) 757-5551.


By Jon McNamara

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