NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Protesters who’ve criticized Nashville’s handling of homelessness for more than a year, returned to West Nashville and demanded a solution.

The organization calls itself “Reclaim Brookemeade Park” and has long since its inception urged city leaders to make a change.

“The homeless, the chronic individuals experiencing homelessness have been able to live here unimpeded for over a year surrounded by the predators that keep them in this camp that won’t let them exist,” said DeDe Byrd, with Reclaim Brookmeade Park. “They have an addiction, they have mental health crisis there need to be extensive wrap-around services there needs to be a transitional launch housing gap housing whatever you want to call it so they will be successful.”

Reclaim Brookmeade Park has been pushing the same message through rallies and billboards.

“The mayor has given $50 million to help with the homeless situation,” said Bryd. “We’re still trying to figure out why no one wants to step forward, the Metro Council, the non-profits.”

However, the solution isn’t as simple as it sounds.

“I think we got some work to do to be quite honest. It’s been an issue, it’s not something that’s just starting yesterday. So, just like it was not starting yesterday, the solution will not come tomorrow,” said Kelsea Comb.

Comb is part of the Metro Mobile Housing Navigation initiative headed up by the city in August 2021. The initiative provides the city’s unhoused population with everything from housing to mental health care.

It’s no secret that Nashville continues to be a fast-growing city, but organizations like Open Table Nashville say, “until there is enough affordable housing for all, encampments will continue to exist.”

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“Affordable housing and the housing process in general just takes time. So, if you have a Section 8 listing, there are over 100 names because the issue is so prevalent. So, you can’t just get 100 people just in housing like that,” explained Comb.

According to Open Table Nashville, so far this year, more than 30 encampments in the Nashville area have been shut down, but advocates say the problem doesn’t end there.

“Putting them into housing with o support and detaching them from the community that they’re used to, it’s not the most wise decision because that kind of sets the person up for failure sometimes,” explained Comb. “It’s a community, it would honestly be like going into your neighborhood, plucked you out of your neighborhood, and then put you somewhere else expecting you to thrive. You’re disconnecting someone from the community that they’ve built and although sometimes that community isn’t the best, it is what you lean on when you’re going through tough times.”

Open Table Nashville’s Full Statement:

For years, Nashville has been mired in an affordable housing crisis that is only getting worse. Until there is enough affordable, accessible housing for all, encampments will continue to exist because there are not enough low-barrier shelter beds or transitional housing units to accommodate everyone. Since the beginning of 2022 alone, over 30 encampments in the Nashville area have been shut down. Encampment closures don’t end homelessness. The only way to end homelessness is by investing in permanent housing and support services.

Lindsey Krinks, Director of Education and Advocacy at Open Table Nashville