NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Nashville leaders are searching for solutions for outdoor homeless camps in the area. Metro Vice Mayor Jim Schulman said it’s time to get everyone on the same page and he hoped a series of meetings that start Tuesday are the beginning of the process.
“I think people have been kind of trying to throw different ideas around at different plans. I know, lots of groups trying to figure this out. I think the problem has been, there’s been no coordinated attempt, as far as I can tell, to try to bring everybody together and say, everybody’s got different plans. Let’s all sit down and figure this out,” Schulman explained.
The vice mayor has called for two days of public meetings Tuesday and Wednesday at the downtown public library and everyone is invited. On the first night, small groups will work tougher to come up with solutions.
On the second night, organizers will take those ideas and work to develop a master plan that everyone in the city can get behind.
“I will tell you that, again, it’s complicated. And after two days, we may not have a plan. But I think we need to try,” Schulman said.
The issue has been top of mind in recent weeks with the debate about the future of the camp at Brookemeade Park in West Nashville.
“We knew that it was going to get deferred just based on the Budget Committee meeting. I’m a part of the ARP committee, there’s three council members on it, and I’ve voted against this,” said Metro Councilmember Sandra Sepulveda. “I don’t think it really addresses the need to have more affordable housing and, you know, free services for for people who are struggling. I would have been fine if it just included the updates for the park, I think that is needed and we do need a park that people could go to, but, you know, pushing people out. It’s not the answer.”
She explained that several stakeholders, homeless advocacy groups and a representative from HUD also said that was not the answer.
“It just pushes people to the street or to other neighborhoods, and it doesn’t get to the core root of the issue. If we would have gone to the parks with housing vouchers to get them out then that’s a solution. I just, I don’t think the approach we are taking was thought out, and it was tone deaf,” Sepulveda said.
Schulman pointed out that homelessness in Nashville wasn’t an issue that popped up overnight.
“This issue – it just didn’t show up. It’s been here for a long time. But there’s been some urgency put on, particularly with the Brookemeade Park situation, too. We need to, we need to come up with a plan and try to address this. So the faster the better,” Schulman said.
Metro leaders are now hoping residents will join the discussion so they can move towards a solution to this longstanding issue.
“It’s one of the most pressing matters that we need to solve. When we had our past budget hearing where the public can come and speak to all the council members as to what they want to see on the budget, their priorities, affordable housing was one of the top ones,” Sepulveda said. “We heard it over and over again, we need affordable places to live, people are getting pushed out of their neighborhoods, we have to address it, and we have to come to the conclusion that, you know, the approach that they are trying to take doesn’t solve homelessness. It persists, you know. I’m one of the three members that’s a part of the homelessness Planning Council and providers have been working on this for a very long time, and they have a plan to try and solve homelessness, you know, but we need funding for that. We need to come to the table and realize that we can’t keep certain people out of the conversation. Everyone must be brought to the table to try and address this.”
The meetings will be in the big conference room on the first floor of the downtown public library from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.