The city's Emergency Housing Partnership Homeless Hotline, which connected homeless or financially strapped Memphians with emergency shelter, food, clothing, and other basic needs, is back in service after being abruptly cut off after the end of July.
The new number is 901-529-4545, and the hotline, which is now being administered by MIFA, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The hotline had previously been run by the Tennessee Community Services Agency (TNCSA), but the city didn't renew its contract with TNCSA after they claimed there were complaints about volunteers not answering the hotline at night. But that meant the city was without a hotline for several months while MIFA got set up to run it. TNCSA executive director Tom McWherter told the Flyer
at the time that he'd been working with the city on a new contract that would add paid staff in the evenings to ensure those calls were answered, but he was told on July 21st that his contract wasn't being renewed after all.
"I was told the reason my contract was being pulled was there had been some complaints during the night-time hours. The phones weren't being answered [by volunteers], or calls weren't being returned. It didn't involve my staff," McWherter said. "We all knew about that issue and had discussed it many times. It was an issue we had worked on solving with this new contract."
The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center's Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (H.O.P.E.) organization campaigned to get the hotline back as soon as possible, and they're still asking questions as to why the hotline was allowed to go dormant for months.
From an email statement from H.O.P.E.: "Many questions remain, such as: Why was the hotline disconnected in the first place? Why was the contract with TNCSA to continue to operate the hotline offered and then suddenly canceled, when none of the previous problems with the hotline were areas under their responsibility? Why was no one warned about the hotline being temporarily disconnected, including homeless service providers? Why have we continued to receive contradictory answers to these and other questions from the City of Memphis? This is a crucial program that saves lives. HOPE supports it fully, but will also always fight for proper accountability and transparency."