By Katheryn Bourne, Staff Writer—
98, 99, 100, 101. The temperature in Chattanooga continues to rise, staving off the cool breezes and changing leaves of fall. On UTC’s campus and in the surrounding areas, the sidewalk sizzles and the heat curls through the air.
While students brave the heat to attend their classes or walk to their cars, others in the downtown area are unable to find relief from the sweltering summer heat. According to Homeless Chattanooga, 600 to 700 people in the city sleep outside overnight. Further, the organization reports that around 4,000 people experience homelessness in Chattanooga each year.
Modern Hippie, a Chattanooga-based community outreach organization, sites these statistics as one of the main reasons it undertook efforts to reach out to the local homeless community. Specifically, Modern Hippie’s “Stay Hydrated” campaign began in 2018, focusing on serving those who do not have immediate access to clean and convenient water sources. Harlan Groves, director of the campaign, recalls how the idea to spread access to water came to him and a friend.
“We just kinda talked about it one day,” he said. “We just kept seeing more people without a home or access to water in the heat. We wanted to help, and reusable water bottles came to mind.”
The campaign began with a crowdsourced fundraiser, and Modern Hippie was able to use the funds to pass out reusable metal water bottles to the homeless population around UTC and greater Chattanooga. Additionally, this year, local businesses are sponsoring the organization and elevating the amount of funds available for the initiative. These businesses include Mojo Burrito, The Crash Pad, The Flying Squirrel bar, and Coca Cola.
With the help from local businesses and volunteers, Modern Hippie plans to distribute up to 400 bottles this year to those spending so much of their days in the summer sun. Stay Hydrated volunteers distribute bottles most often around 11th Street, because this location, according to Groves, offers additional resources for the homeless population (including the community kitchen and the Maclellan Shelter for Families), so other services are easily accessible and frequently populated.
The Pulse, a Chattanooga art and entertainment publication, spoke to Harlan Groves in August 2019, and offer a further description befitting of the organization’s charitable vision.
“Modern Hippie wants to help cultivate a younger crop of volunteers through social media and interactive service opportunities in order to help the Chattanooga community,” they said. “They’re trying to meet the physiological needs of the homeless [here].”
Harlan Groves and Modern Hippie offer their thanks to those who volunteer on the campaign and to businesses willing to support the organization in its journey to positively impact awareness and empathy towards those in need.
“[The volunteers] are really good people,” Groves said. “Many of them were in this from the beginning and are really interested in making a difference.”
Those who are interested in volunteering for Modern Hippie meet every Tuesday and Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. at Olivet Baptist Church, located at 740 E. Martin Luther King Blvd. Information about the campaign and other Modern Hippie happenings can be found online at modernhippie.us or by inquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org.