NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Office of Nashville Mayor John Cooper tells News 2 that the city is investing $50 million to reduce homelessness.
“The mayor has made helping our unhoused neighbors get back on their feet a top priority and is investing an unprecedented $50 million to significantly increase the resources and tools the city has to get folks off the streets, into housing and on a path to rebuild their lives,” said mayoral spokesperson TJ Ducklo. “Some of those tools include more staff for our Homeless Impact vision, additional resources to address substance abuse and mental health, and new permanent supportive housing solutions – like the 90-unit complex we’re set to break ground on later this month.”
Metro officials say 1,887 people experiencing homelessness were housed in Nashville from April 2021 through April 2022. Fifty-nine percent of those people housed since April 2021 were Black. Thirty-nine percent of those housed were white.
Over on Green Street in South Nashville, the positive energy put forth by the city is not as strongly felt.
Though the street is short, the line of tents without running water or electricity is long. There are vacuum cleaners and tubs of clothes, coolers, and trash lining the green space that butts up against a fence 20 feet from I-40.
The signs there say “STATE PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING.”
Business owner Bobby Joslin said when the state posted those signs about six months ago, the homeless camp that was on the state’s right of way moved to Green Street, which is owned by the city.
Across from the multiple tents and homeless people are a handful of businesses that range from radiator shops to battery companies. These businesses pay rent to Bobby Joslin. Some of the tenants are unhappy with the homeless camps and tell Joslin they plan to leave when the lease expires.
“We get complaints. When the lease is up, we are out of here. The homeless have taken over the street,” Joslin said. “It’s embarrassing to customers. One tenant’s wife won’t come down here anymore.”
Joslin said this is on top of a business community that just battled through the COVID pandemic, and now, supply chain issues.
“This doesn’t help. This problem is taking over Nashville. I’m very frustrated,” Joslin said. “As a city, Nashville is a shining star. And this problem is taking over. Main streets, downtown, homeless are taking over Metro Parks. Families can’t walk through anymore. That is crossing the line.”
News 2 spoke with several homeless people who live in the Green Street tents for a variety of reasons.
A mother of three who has lived in the tent for more than six months tells News 2 she is waiting for assistance for housing, but so far, the going is slow.
When told of the business owners’ complaints about people like her, the woman said, “They need to have God in their life. Why are they afraid of a homeless person. You have a car, driving by. What can we do to you?”
Another man who says he is 37 years old and has nine children, told News 2 he was studying at Tennessee State for computer science and engineering, but circumstances in his life brought him to the tent city.
“If you don’t want us to be homeless, do more programs like urban housing solutions,” he said.
The man said he applies for jobs, especially in the mechanical field, but being homeless puts him at a disadvantage. “Even though my experience is better, they will give them a chance because they feel they are more reliable because they have transportation and a stable home,” he said.
“I feel sorry for people living like this, nobody wants to live like this,” Joslin said. “But they do have a choice to get a roof over their head a good meal at the rescue mission or room at the inn and they don’t want to do that.”
A third man who said he studied music at Nashville State says the high cost of housing coupled with low wages is the issue for many.
“We need a step, a door to get through,” the man said. “Once we get through, some of us will stay through that door.”
“But it’s not fair to people who live and work and pay their taxes and support the business community and have to deal with something like this on their front door,” Joslin concluded.