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Downtown businesses say Miller Park construction is pushing homeless population elsewhere

NewsChannel 9's SkyCam got footage of the construction at Miller Park which has driven many of the city's homeless population elsewhere.

Everyone knows the uncomfortable feeling of walking by people begging for money.

Chattanooga businesses say the downtown panhandling problem has expanded into new parts of the city since renovations to Miller Park began.

It's an area on Market Street people often hurry by, ducking their heads to avoid eye contact.

Now, Brenda Carter can't help notice her regular bus stop and others in town are getting more crowded.

"You can't really hardly sit on the bus stops now," she said. "Some of them don't have no where to go since the park done closed."

Wesley Jackson lives nearby in Patton Towers. He says his friends who used to sleep in this park, because they have no where else to go, have spread out all over town.

"They are sleeping down here by the bridge," he said. "They are sleeping over there under the bridge."

Carter says most of the people are just trying to find somewhere to rest.

"I don't think they are bothering," she says. "They're just being themselves."

But businesses one block over from construction say, they've seen the problem turn criminal.

Monday, police arrested a man here for aggressive panhandling.

According to an affidavit, Johnny Doak was bothering Starbucks customers and didn't listen when police asked him to leave.

Mark Williams with the Homeless Coalition says the city anticipated problems before breaking ground here.

"The one thing [businesses] can do is get in touch with us here at the coalition and we'll try to get an outreach worker to come talk to specific individuals that are causing an issue," Williams said.

While he says there are services available, there are rules people have to follow to get them.

This project is supposed to be complete by next summer.

According to the city, homeless people will be invited into the park once it's finished. There will be public bathrooms there.


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