NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Neighbors and businesses in South Nashville said they are suffering the consequences of the nearby homeless encampment on Edmondson Pike off Nolensville Pike.
The encampment at Wentworth-Caldwell Park has been there for 15-20 years, according to long-time resident Timothy Kimbrough, who has lived in the area since the 1970s and is a regular customer at the convenience store next to the park.
However, Kimbrough said the encampment has grown since the city shut down one of its largest encampments in West Nashville at Brookmeade Park earlier this month. He believes the people living in Brookmeade who turned down housing opportunities from the city went to Wentworth-Caldwell Park instead.
“I’m not picking on the people (in Brookmeade) who didn’t want any help; they didn’t want to go to the apartment, but they’re here. They’re back there in the woods right now,” Kimbrough said, pointing toward Wentworth-Caldwell Park.
As the encampment continues to grow, so do the number of problems, which are fueled by drugs, according to surrounding businesses and their customers.
“We repeatedly have to run them out of here,” Kimbrough said. “There are certain people who can’t come in here. We’ve caught people stealing in here, we’ve had people try to rob in here, they get things and run out, and you can’t trust them.”
During the interview with Kimbrough, an employee at the convenience store found a used drug needle behind the business, which he said is becoming a normal occurrence.
Metro Councilwoman Courtney Johnston told News 2 she has a goal to get Wentworth-Caldwell Park closed and cleaned up by the end of February. The city began outreach services and representatives walked through the encampment Monday.
“I was really pleased to see that once the folks who lived there realized we were outreach, they were actually excited to see us,” Johnston said. “We had one man come up to us with his stuff gathered up ready to go, and actually we were able to get him housing.”
Johnston said she is looking forward to helping the people staying in the park find housing and doing some “critical cleanup” so the litter can be removed and residents and businesses who have been suffering the consequences of the encampment can find relief.
However, clearing out an encampment isn’t as simple as it may seem.
“It is quite a long process, and you’ve got people who are very distrustful, so the relationship they have with our nonprofit partners and our social outreach workers is critical to the success of closing the encampment,” Johnston said.
Johnston added it’s extra important to clear out Wentworth-Caldwell because the area is known to flood in the spring.
Kimbrough told News 2 he worries where the current Wentworth-Caldwell Park residents who don’t want housing will go once the encampment is cleared out.
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“It doesn’t matter where you move people,” Kimbrough said. “They could come in here and move them, and they’re going to be somewhere else in the same spot, like Brookmeade. They’re right here.”
The city plans to build a fence and add additional lighting to prevent the encampment from reforming once the park is closed, similar to what is being done at Brookmeade Park.
The efforts are being paid for with the $50 million from the federal government the city voted to use to address homelessness late last year.