NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On July 1, 2022, a new law went into effect making it a felony for people to live on public property, affecting homeless people.
One week later, News 2 checked in to see if the law was enforced throughout Metro Nashville, especially after protests followed the bill being signed into law by Governor Bill Lee.
The bill directly impacted people like Terry Warren, who sat down with News 2 outside his transitional home.
“The first year under the [Jefferson Street] bridge was just a matter of adjusting,” Warren said.
Warren didn’t always live with a roof over his head. Until recently, he lived under the Jefferson Street Bridge. He told News 2 that he was forced to live there after the pandemic.
Since then it has been a series of challenges, and when he heard about the new law, he worried for others.
“To me, it’s like the homeless are a burden, and the best way to deal with a burden is to try to eliminate it, instead of trying to help it and try to come up with better ways so that the people can start making it on their own,” explained Warren.
He says it’s a timing game, figuring out when and where to sleep to avoid trouble.
“You just got to figure out, well police shift is changing right about now, so they won’t be here for another couple of hours. I can take a quick nap right now,” laughed Warren.
Warren told News 2 that he is grateful to have somewhere safe to stay, but knows how difficult it is for others which is why he advocates for change every chance he gets.
On the same day the law went into effect, nearly 200 advocates protested the decision on Legislative Plaza. Exactly one week later, Metro Nashville Police told News 2 they have made zero arrests linked to the law.
“Even if this law hasn’t been used to make an arrest in Nashville yet, we’ve already seen it used in Knoxville once, for a woman who was camping on UT’s property,” said Lindsey Krirks with Open Table Nashville.
Krinks says it’s a positive sign, but attributes it to a strong connection between MNPD and community advocates.
“Nashville Police are used to working with outreach workers and service providers, and they know advocates are watching what’s happening. So, we don’t expect the same kind of carefulness outside in more rural areas,” explained Krinks.
In the meantime, the organization is hoping to put more emphasis on re-housing in order to make a change.