Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 26, 2020

Realtor Robinson reflects on mentorship opportunities with Chattanooga homeless

Jay Robinson and his wife, Ali. Robinson is calling for more housing options for vulnerable populations in Chattanooga. - Photograph provided

Jay Robinson is often top-of-mind for those buying or selling luxury properties throughout the region; however, it is his commitment to those who are homeless or experiencing addiction that drives him as a mentor within those communities.

In early winter, Robinson accompanied individuals from various agencies as they determined a “point-in-time” count of the homeless population in Chattanooga.

Meeting individuals living in one of the 130 different homeless encampments across the community, Robinson had the opportunity to speak with those who call the street their home.

“When we asked if there was something they needed, most responded that they were fine and turned the question around to ask if there was something we needed,” Robinson says.

While food boxes and non-perishables make their way to many of these individuals, those who are chronically homeless and mentally ill have a much more difficult time.

Two years ago, Robinson was introduced to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Frequent Users System Engagement (FUSE) program, which assists in helping the county’s chronically homeless and mentally ill avoid incarceration and achieve stability.

As he took an initial tour of the Hamilton County Jail, he was struck by how many “regulars” were being held.

Robinson learned that the Hamilton County Jail houses more people with mental illness than any other treatment facility in the region.

“I quickly learned the expense of picking up individuals, booking them into jail and holding them until their case is adjudicated,” Robinson explains.

“Unfortunately, the outcome for many of these people is to send them back out onto the street until they’re picked up again. This was unacceptable. As a Realtor, I know the stability a home brings to a family.

“As I learned more and became active within this segment of our community and the FUSE program, I knew this work was important. Thankfully, the right people and agencies were in place to do work that will be transformational to so many.”

Thanks to the work of Sheriff Jim Hammond, FUSE recently received $3.9 million in funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which will provide $678,000 every year for the next five years. This amount accompanies an earlier award of $2.2 million award from the Department of Justice.

During the first two years of the program, 50 individuals will be provided with permanent housing and intensive 24/7 services that promote health and recovery.

The data-driven outcomes used by FUSE is creating a business case for supportive housing investments for other vulnerable populations in our community.

Robinson has also been providing his time and expertise to the Interagency Council on Homelessness. He says both groups provide complimenting efforts to those in need.

“Think what our community will look like with support and housing options available for young adults aging out of foster care, homeless families, veterans, the disabled and the elderly,” he challenges.

“The work is transformational for those coming into these programs, but it’s also been transformational for me. I’m much more focused on meeting the needs of others and aware of resources to connect those in need. I’m proud to support these efforts.”

Sources: The Robinson Team at Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty and Derryberry Public Relations