Metro councilman to propose independent agency to tackle housing and homelessness

Middle TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro city leaders plan to devote more resources to housing and homelessness in Music City.

“This is not a new idea,” said Metro Councilman Freddie O’Connell, who represents District 19. “It’s something the mayor campaigned on back in 2019 to an extent and then reinforced it as soon as he took office.”

The idea is to make the Office of Housing and Homelessness its own city entity. Right now, it functions under the umbrella of Social Services.

“We haven’t been moving with urgency to solve problems with housing, or some of the issues that might cause people to be at greater risk,” said Councilman O’Connell. “This bill proposes to bring them {the agency} into a stand-alone department, so we can keep that focus on how do we maintain affordability here for people who are already housed and reduce their risk through eviction.”

Monday, Metro Water Services built about an eight-foot fence around an encampment at the corner of Charlotte Pike and Cabot Drive. The company owns the land and built the fence to protect its pumping station.

Those who live nearby expressed worry about where the campers would move to next.

“We want a transition center where they can go,” said Dede Byrd, vice president of Reclaim Brookmeade Park, a grassroots effort to clean up Brookmeade Park and Greenway. “They can camp if they want to. There can be pods. There can be tents.”

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The encampment on Charlotte and Cabot is just a short walk away from Brookmeade Park, where officials say about 80 people camp out in the woods. Byrd says the proposed bill would help create options for those who are unhoused.

“I agree with the bill they are trying to pass at the council,” said Byrd. “Because it is a huge problem. It’s only going to grow. We have to figure out a way to help these displaced citizens now.”

The bill will be introduced on Tuesday at the council’s next meeting.

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