NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Nashville leaders, non-profit organizations, and community members spent most of Wednesday clearing out the homeless encampment off Edmondson Pike in Wentworth-Caldwell Park.
Metro Councilwoman Courtney Johnston told News 2 the groups spent months gaining the park residents’ trust, connecting them with services, and setting them up in temporary housing.
The 40-plus people staying at the park have moved out, according to the city, and the area is closed for extensive cleaning.
“In some ways it’s the beginning of the renovation of the park obviously, but it’s also a new beginning for these folks who have been living here, and they are excited to go,” Johnston said.
However, Remy Mattison, a security guard who works across the street from the encampment, said he is worried the clear-out will create additional problems.
“That was their chill spot,” Mattison said. “They would feel welcome in their own little community. Now, there’s no telling where they’ll be. Hopefully they’ll get housing or something.”
He continued, “I just hope it doesn’t make my job harder, because I’m a security guard. I like to stay safe; I like to keep the people safe. I feel like it’s going to add a detriment to the neighborhood to have them straggling around.”
Some neighbors in Hermitage told News 2 they are worried the people who used to stay in Wentworth-Caldwell Park will make their way to the encampment off Old Hickory Boulevard, which has grown in the past six months, according to community members.
“If they know they’re going to get food, clothing, clean needles, they’re going to go wherever that is, and Hermitage has made it clear they’re going to support this lifestyle and not give the long-term help they need,” said resident Brittany McCann, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.
McCann said businesses and the neighborhood have suffered because of the encampment that’s been in existence for five years, and some who stayed there have died after being hit by cars and overdosing on drugs. She believes the city is not doing enough to solve the homelessness problem.
“We need to get on the list. We need to be scored and prioritized. The city has a plan, but they don’t see these people as worthy of help,” McCann said.
However, a spokeswoman for the Metro Homeless Impact Division told News 2 the city has recently dedicated additional resources to the Hermitage encampment so the people staying there can access different services, including mental health help and employment assistance.
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A group of organizations will reconvene in the next few weeks to decide which of Nashville’s encampments they should prioritize clearing out next.
To prevent the encampment at Wentworth-Caldwell Park from returning, the city will build a fence around the property, add lighting, increase security, and put in no trespassing signs, according to Johnston.