NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the nation deals with a high increase in COVID-19 cases, homeless advocates in Nashville continue to ask the city to help them find a safe space for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19.
Vice Mayor Jim Shulman hosted an emergency meeting Tuesday night with advocates, Nashville Fire Chief William Swann and Interim Metro Public Health Director Dr. Glenn Wright to discuss a solution.
“There is a disconnect; there’s an information problem and nobody is talking,” Shulman said.
This comes after the Nashville Rescue Mission experienced multiple COVID-19 outbreaks this month. In early July, the shelter at the fairgrounds permanently closed after being in operation since March 2020. The Office of Emergency Management placed those who tested positive in an old jail facility on Harding Place. Shulman was notified Monday and decided it was time to bring everyone to the table.
Paula Foster from Open Table Nashville said she has been waiting to speak with city leaders face-to-face. Shulman said it was a productive meeting.
“Everyone was nice and giving everyone a chance to say, ‘Wait why didn’t you consider this?’” Shulman said. “It was really clear that everyone is after the same thing; they’re just not working with each other and the idea was we need to be working with each other, but they need to have some semblance of cooperation.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, groups and various council members pushed to use federal money to purchase hotel vouchers, but that plan never came to fruition. Instead, the fairgrounds shelter was created. Shulman said advocates want to revisit that option.
“I think what you do is you bring everything on the table. Chief Swann did not like that plan because I think he’s concerned about the hotel and nobody is watching. [I] understand that, but these are adults we are talking about and then you’ve got entities saying there’s money available to do this so people would be in an environment,” Shulman said.
During last night’s meeting, the group agreed they needed to move quickly. Judy Tackett from the Homeless Impact Division will be the lead and make sure communication stays strong moving forward. They are hoping to find short and long-term solutions.
Shulman said he has taken these concerns directly to Mayor John Cooper’s office.