NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Following the announcement of a new department within Metro Government, department leadership says they’re looking forward to a more robust approach to providing housing to the unhoused in Nashville and continuing the work already done in the area to assist those without housing.
April Calvin, the first ever Director of the Office of Homeless Services in Metro Nashville, is no stranger to unhoused advocacy work.
Prior to her appointment in the new department, Calvin served as the Interim Director for the Homeless Impact Division of the Metro Social Services Department. The creation of the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) has taken that division out from under the umbrella of Social Services and created its own standalone entity with a dedicated budget, according to Calvin.
She told News 2 her department is the planning and coordinating effort around services for the unhoused, which will allow community partners to further assist those experiencing homelessness.
“There’s about 41 to 45 agencies that actually use the Homeless Management Information System,” she said of those community partners.
Some of the things Calvin said the department looks forward to doing is highlighting all the different agencies that work with OHS to bring “life-saving work” to those living outdoors in Nashville.
An important aspect Calvin hopes to convey to the general public is that homelessness is a complex and fluid issue that can affect anyone at any time. No matter what factors contribute to becoming unhoused, the common thread among that population of Nashvillians is that they are “living without a home.”
While the Housing and Urban Development agency may classify those without permanent homes differently, such as those with medical conditions or those experiencing drug or alcohol addiction or recovery, what Nashville is doing is focusing on a “housing-first” model of assistance.
“We are a housing-first community, striving to become more efficient on that,” she said. “Housing is what is needed to right the situation, but it’s not the only thing. There’s a lot of support services that are already deployed through all of our nonprofits and all of our partnering agencies.”
Additionally, Calvin said, with “housing first” funds, the department is looking to bring on several different agencies that will further help provide mental health care, recovery efforts, detox beds, health care efforts, peer support and mentoring and more.
“We’re looking to bring on those funds to help with all of the other needs and all of the other issues that may surround our folks that are experiencing life without a home,” she told News 2.
Having those resources will be vital in her work, as reports of homelessness nationwide have increased in the last year, she said.
According to the latest Point-In-Time Count, a one-day count of all those experiencing homelessness in Nashville, the rate of those living outdoors or in shelters had increased 11% since 2022.
Calvin stressed that while there is work to be done to try to reduce or even end homelessness in Nashville, the PIT Count was only a “snapshot” of homelessness.