NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville’s $50 million plan to address homelessness in the city comes up for a vote next week. Leading up to the decision, one council member is calling it a “half-baked” idea with no plan in place.

“Is this a good idea? Is this just chasing a headline? Are we just throwing money at this because we feel pressure to do something? Are we spending this money in the right way to solve this problem?” questioned Council Member Courtney Johnston.

Just last week, Mayor Cooper’s office detailed four resolutions to solve the problem. The plan includes a $25 million plan set for the housing authority to distribute low-cost loans for affordable housing units.

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“This $50 million plan will provide us the resources to ensure that people living in those encampments have stable housing options and the wrap-around support to stay living in them,” explained Kristin Wilson, the city’s Chief of Operations and Performance, during a recent Metro Parks meeting.

The mayor’s plan is similar to cities like Houston, which is using the “Housing-First” Model. There, community leaders were able to move 25,000 people from the streets into homes over the span of a decade. Their focus is on re-homing first and then addressing mental health and substance abuse problems.

“If we are looking to build permanent supportive housing, take the $25 million and build permanent supportive housing. Why do we need to go through a developer? We have our own housing authority,” said Johnston. “If we’re going to be looking to expand our mobile navigation, how many locations are you looking to expand? How many people are you planning to serve? What is that going to cost? Yes, we’re going to help some people, but are we truly solving Nashville’s homelessness problem? No, we’re not.”

During a Joint Committee Meeting held Thursday night, Mayor John Cooper addressed Council members in their concerns about the plan. He said:

“I know every person in this room agrees that Nashville must do more to help our most vulnerable. We all agree we must do more to get our unhoused neighbors off the streets, and into stable housing and receive the services needed to stay housed. I bet we all also agree that this has been “somebody else’s problem” for too long – and has persisted for decades. As our city’s leaders, it’s on us to take action. I’m heartened that we all come to this conversation with this common purpose, and a shared belief that inaction is not an option. I am proud of the plan you will be considering today. It is grounded in a proven national model that has been successful in cities across the country. 

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Increasing capacity for temporary gap housing allows us to move to quickly get folks off the street, and the funding for supportive wrap-around services helps us KEEP folks off the street. But the system doesn’t work without the permanent, supportive solutions that MDHA will be building and creating with the $25 million. This is in complete alignment with ARP guidance issued by the Treasury Department and in line with the White House “Housing Supply Action Plan. We designed this plan to work as a unit – and I would urge you to keep that important factor in mind as you discuss – and vote – today and next week. Finally, I want to call attention to the unique opportunity to fund a plan that meets the magnitude of the problem, and the urgency to move forward. The upfront costs of instituting a true “Housing First” plan are steep. That’s why the opportunity to make American Rescue Plan federal dollars available to finance these initial costs is huge. We must capitalize on this opportunity. And urgently, Metro’s cold weather protocols begin in November – just four short weeks away. In fact, we’re already expediting implementation of this plan. For example, on the same night Council votes on the plan, assuming the funds are approved, we’re asking Council to approve a grant to Community Care Fellowship to expand their mobile housing navigation – so we can start housing more people immediately. Another example, once the funds are approved, the Metro Homeless Impact Division will release an RFP to create Housing First Supportive Services immediately.  We should also have a contract with the Salvation Army for additional hotel rooms by the 2nd Council meeting in October.”

Nashville Mayor John Cooper