NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Part of a previously shut down homeless encampment near Nolensville Pike and Harding Place in South Nashville has returned on state and privately owned property, according to Metro officials and nearby businesses.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and the two other private owners cleared out the encampment located under a bridge and in the surrounding wooded areas this past March by telling the people living there that they were trespassing, according to Metro Councilwoman Courtney Johnston.
After the homeless lit the bridge over the encampment on fire, Johnston said many of them moved next door to the encampment on city-owned property, Wentworth-Caldwell Park. Shortly after, Metro helped house the individuals in Wentworth-Caldwell Park before clearing out the encampment on its property.
Nearby businesses told News 2 before the encampment was closed, the people staying there caused a lot of problems from damaging and breaking into cars, to stealing equipment, to lighting vehicles on fire.
“There were a couple times we had to call Metro PD to come out here because there was some kind of indecent exposure or just customers feeling very uncomfortable being approached in the parking lot,” Jeremy Torres, manager of Smoke Token Smoke Shop said. “We’ve even had people run out literally into the middle of the street and try to stop cars.”
Torres said things were “peaceful” after the homeless encampment was closed, but that was short lived.
“They set up a couple fences. They cleared some of the brush, took away a lot of the trash, but as soon as all that was done, they started returning back,” Torres said.
Last month, Smoke Token’s air tanks used for glass blowing were stolen, according to Torres. News 2 observed dozens of shopping carts, litter, and overgrown brush on the privately owned section of land near the bridge.
“They’ll get into the trash cans and pull the bags out and just rip them apart and this whole area back here will be covered and littered with nothing but trash,” Torres added, pointing to the wooded area behind the shop.
Johnston told News 2 she tried to warn the private owners that if they didn’t maintain the brush, the homeless could return. She said she is now working with the them to come up with solutions and has already helped find housing for one of the main homeless individuals in the community.
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Johnston added TDOT cleared out their property located under the bridge last week. News 2 reached out to TDOT for more information, but had not heard back by the time this article was published.