NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – For months now, residents have seen the problem, but it wasn’t until recently they were able to read about it.
Recently, the Office of Homeless Services responded after an internal audit was published, showing where Nashville was back in 2020 and 2021.
“As a new director, I didn’t know quite that much about the services that was provided prior to me becoming the director, but now as a director, I welcomed that audit; it really helped me to understand where we were as a department and where we needed to go,” said April Calvin, the current executive director of the Office of Homeless Services.
The 21-page audit revealed that, at the time, there were 16 encampment locations. The audit also labeled the situation as “high risk” because the city had no encampment plan at the time.
“Probably the most shocking thing was we, as a community, did not have an encampment strategy, and that was something we got to work on immediately,” Calvin said.
In response to the audit, the Office of Homeless Services released a statement that said in part, “The audit showed that, for some time, the measures enacted under the previous MHID Leadership were not effective in reducing homelessness, thus, quick and immediate changes were made.”
“We know that encampments grow and form depending on the seasons. So during the summer, during the spring, encampments are typically large, and they may pop up in various locations. During the winter months, encampments are small, so I think that’s what we are seeing now,” explained Calvin. “So, I think one of the misconceptions is we’re closing an encampment without a plan and without a priority process. Our community partners helped to write this encampment strategy that was a part of that audit, and for me, it’s much more about a housing surge, not an encampment closure.”
Just a few blocks from Nissan Stadium, the TA Truck Stop is one of the latest encampments to go through what is being called a “Housing Surge,” focused on the Housing First approach. The area was described as an “extreme safety threat to the unhoused residents and the area.”
The goal is not to only provide homeless residents with a roof over their heads, but also to follow up with wrap-around services.
Calvin explained how in the past under previous leadership, she claimed residents were required to go through some sort of sober program to gain access to housing. She explained how this approach was not sustainable,
The department expected location closure signs to be up by Oct. 6, 2023, for the latest encampment.