When Dr. Roger Thompson recently arranged for UTC resident assistants to visit the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, he was fairly sure it was the first time they had ever seen the site. He wanted the student housing employees to understand how the homeless are served at the Community Kitchen so that they could find a way for more UTC students to become involved.
“There are many unmet needs in Chattanooga,” Thompson explained. “In my field, we are dealing with crime, advocating for tough enforcement policies. For the homeless, we try and reach a population with great needs but little political influence.”
Thompson is beginning to see positive steps on campus, with housing students, fraternities and sororities donating their time.
“Their involvement increases the University’s role and influence in this population and encourages others to look around and help,” Thompson said.
Thompson, Associate Professor and Chief Departmental Advisor in the Department of Criminal Justice, has embraced community engagement for many years, and his work with the homeless earned him the 2011 Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award. He was honored at a banquet in Nashville.
“For thirty years, Dr. Thompson’s work as a faculty member has not confined him to campus, but rather engaged him in the Chattanooga community. We are proud of his achievements as he works with the homeless and strategizes to reduce crime. He has invested his time and energy in making Chattanooga a better place for all of us to live,” said Provost Phil Oldham.
In 1997, the awards were named for the late Representative Harold Love, Sr., who was instrumental in passing the enabling legislation. Faculty and students at four and two year public and private institutions are eligible for these Tennessee Higher Education Commission honors.
Thompson began working with the Chattanooga Housing Authority on drug issues and use in 1989. From 2004-07, he worked with the MLK Weed and Seed program to address Chattanooga’s transient population. Thompson recognized transients were drawn to the city’s assistance programs.
In 2007, Thompson was appointed to a committee to end chronic homelessness in Chattanooga. The committee established Project Homeless Connect—a one day event which served more than 200 clients. Each year the number of clients served has grown and in 2010, 550 homeless clients received assistance.
“Dr. Thompson is deserving of this award,” said Dr. Helen Eigenberg, professor and head of the Department of Criminal Justice. “He is only the third UTC faculty member to receive it since 1998.”
The Love award comes with a cash prize of $1,000.
“It was quite a surprise to be named, I did not know I had been nominated,” Thompson acknowledged. “I am hopeful this award inspires others on the University campus to step beyond the boundaries of the classroom to test their knowledge base and skills in the community.”
Though Thompson’s Love Award recognizes his work with the homeless, he is also involved in another Chattanooga endeavor. Earlier in 2011, Thompson was appointed to a three-year term to the Office of Multicultural Affairs Advisory Board by Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.
Thompson had previously served a one-year appointment with the office where he chaired a task force on crime. He completed a crime report for the Multicultural Center in 2010 and he plans to complete another. The report serves as a way to bring together representatives from around the city to consider ways to reduce violent crime and promote better social skills for conflict resolution.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs was established to encourage understanding and goodwill, to promote justice, and to eliminate discrimination between and among the citizens of Chattanooga because of race, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability or ethnicity.
“With the influx of refugees and companies coming to Chattanooga from all over the world, we are more tied to the global community than ever,” Thompson said. “We have a multi-cultural workforce that is speaking different languages and it’s growing.”