Weekly Update

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It’s been a cold and icy start to February. Hopefully you’re staying warm. If you currently do not have power, know that MLGW crews are working as quickly as they can to restore it. To report an outage or check on the status of your power, visit MLGW’s website or call 901.544.6500.


From a City government perspective, I signed a state of emergency due to our weather conditions late yesterday afternoon. We currently have a total of 23 tree crews and seven salt and sand trucks out working as I write today’s Update. So far, we have received a total of 378 tree calls and 167 of them have been completed. Crews will be working around the clock to remove fallen trees and debris from our streets.


Thanks to Governor Lee for calling to check and see how the State could assist Memphians, and thanks to TDOT for treating our interstates and other state-managed routes for ice and removing fallen trees from state routes within city limits.


Stay safe, and stay warm!


Helping those in need: Earlier this week, Memphis and Shelby County Code Enforcement along with Memphis Fire were forced to close a makeshift shelter owned by a local nonprofit because it was not safe for occupants.


I want to give some more background on why this happened.


On multiple occasions over the last year, the City inspected the property and tried to work with the owner to fix a myriad of safety issues. Some of the main issues with the property—there was no working smoke detector and no sprinkler system in case of a fire. The City’s Office of Planning and Development and Memphis Fire Department could not risk a tragedy happening like the situation in Oakland five years ago in which 36 people died in a fire when they were allowed to occupy a building that was not up to code. 


In addition, and equally as important, it had no working restrooms and running water; there were no showers, laundry or sleeping facilities that separated men from women and children (as is required); and three meals a day should have also been provided. These are all requirements to be considered a shelter, and they were not met.   


The bottom line is that the building is not safe for occupancy, and it needed to be shut down.


The City requested the owner to complete some minimum safety standards for temporary occupancy to get through the winter months—but that did not happen. As a result, the building owner has been cited to court. If the owner chooses to bring the building up to code, and make it safe for occupancy, the City will allow the building to reopen.


I want to make one thing abundantly clear—the City of Memphis cares deeply about our residents who are experiencing homelessness, which is why we partner with so many local agencies who do fantastic work helping people who are facing this kind of struggle.  Below are a few examples.

Warming and Cooling Centers: The City of Memphis opens warming/cooling centers as an emergency measure when we have extremely hot or cold temperatures (like we do right now). They are designed to be a temporary safety net to prevent people from dying from exposure to the elements. This operation is aimed at serving people who have not yet or cannot access the services of a more permanent shelter. 

The current warming center at the Hickory Hill location holds 830 people.  If that center gets close to capacity, we open a second, and then a third if necessary. This is a system that is used by cities across the country, not just in Memphis.

Through MATA, we provide free transportation to the center. If someone does express the desire to go to a shelter, we will transport them for free.  When weather conditions are going to be harsh, our police officers and non-profit partners that work with people who are experiencing homelessness, go in-search of folks who are outside and offer to take them to the warming center or shelter.  We cannot force someone to take shelter against their will —we can only offer the assistance. 

Our fire department staffs warming/cooling centers. MPD provides security. Parks provides space and volunteers. MATA provides transport, and our partner agencies provide assistance as well.  Each year, hundreds of individuals are served in this way.

Why we operate warming/cooling centers and not shelters:  There are many federal designations that determine what should be a shelter.  In addition to providing bed space, three hot meals, shower facilities, and laundry facilities, you must also separate men and women.  

Supporting the Continuum of Care:  A few years ago, we began providing $550,000 to the Hospitality Hub each year to fund ongoing operations and supportive services for individuals experiencing homelessness.  Additionally, the City of Memphis Housing and Community Development Division currently provides just over $8 million to support and address homeless and special needs populations.

These activities include:

  1. Engaging homeless individuals and families living on the street;
  2. Improving the number and quality of emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families;
  3. Helping operate these shelters;
  4. Providing essential services to shelter residents;
  5. Rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families; and
  6. Preventing families and individuals from becoming homeless

These funds are distributed through a public RFP process. The nonprofits we currently work with are:

  • Catholic Charities of West TN
  • OUT Memphis
  • YWCA
  • The Salvation Army
  • AGAPE Child & Family Services, Inc.
  • Room in the Inn
  • Hospitality HUB

Homeless Day Facility – “The Plaza”:  To better serve individuals no matter their needs, two years ago the City introduced the Homeless Day Facility concept to Memphis—a barrier-free introduction to the continuum of care, the Plaza represents best-in-class human centric, trauma informed case work for clients. The City coordinated its implementation with the Hospitality Hub, and donated inspection station land and facilities on Washington Ave., demolished all structures, and contributed to construction of The Plaza (Homeless Day Facility - open now) and the co-located Women's Shelter (under construction and slated to open in late 2022).  More than 1,800 persons have been assisted through services at The Plaza.

Work Local Program:  Because lack of money contributes to Homelessness and foments panhandling, the City Division of Public Works created the Work Local program—an opportunity for meaningful work enticing people into the continuum of care. 

Since inception in 2017, Work Local Participants have performed 9,880 fair days of work, earning $494,000 of fair wages ($10 per hour, plus lunch), collecting more than 582,400 pounds of trash and debris, trimming 780 alleyways and answering 2,028 311 calls for service. Since inception, more than 4,000 people have participated in this program, and we have served an average of 1,300 people per year with this program.

Pandemic Housing:  During the height of the pandemic, the Memphis Fire Department held multiple "pop-up" vaccination pods at homeless facilities serving homeless citizens, vaccinating hundreds of people experiencing homelessness.  Also, throughout the pandemic, the City of Memphis, in partnership with the Shelby County Community Services Agency, secured hotels for individuals and their families who required quarantine or isolation because of contracting or having close contact with COVID-19.

Collins Chapel:  In partnership with the CME Church and Room at the Inn two years ago, the City helped fund the renovation of historical Collins Chapel to house people who are experience homelessness after they have had ER visits/surgery.  It helps them fully recover so they don’t end up back in the hospital and provides wrap around services so people can transition in to permanent housing.

A new Memphis Fire Headquarters: Earlier this week, the brand-new Memphis Fire Department Headquarters was unveiled to the community. It’s a state-of-the-art facility and only fitting for the best fire department in the country.



Congratulations to Chief Gina Sweat and her team on this beautiful new headquarters. It’s a tremendous asset for Memphis Fire and the entire community.

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Thank you to City Council for their partnership and to Chief Gina Sweat for her vision and leadership to make this happen.


Stay safe and warm this weekend!



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