NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — Tensions are growing over what to do about a homeless encampment in West Nashville. Neighbors and business owners are worried about health and safety as more people move in and trash piles up.
It’s located at Brookmeade Park on Charlotte Pike near Walmart. City leaders say there are currently 75 to 80 people living the camp in a wooded area.
“This is not where we want to head. This is not sustainable. This is not healthy for people there. This is not healthy for anybody,” said Judith Tackett, Metro Nashville’s Social Services Director of the Homeless Impact division.
On Thursday night, Metro leaders met with concerned folks at the Bellevue Community Center to discuss solutions.
“We have two things we want. We want our beautiful park and greenway back and we want people in that park treated kindly, humanely, looked after, and we want them with a roof over their heads and the kinds of specialized care that each one of them needs,” said Becky Lowe, a neighbor of the park.
West Precinct Commander David Corman also addressed the crowd. He noted that there is a drug and narcotic problem at the homeless encampment and that people sleeping there overnight are violating a local ordinance.
But Corman told the crowd police won’t make any arrests until the city comes up with a more sustainable plan to house the homeless population.
“We can’t just go and arrest folks that are homeless staying in a park because it really is criminalizing homelessness and we don’t want to do that,” Commander Corman said.
About half a dozen local nonprofits that serve the homeless camp also voiced concerns about where the people will go. Some parts of the meeting became heated as people threw out solutions, including moving those in the homeless camp to communities on the other side of the county.
But all parties agree that something needs to be done and there needs to be some new affordable housing options.
Both sides also questioned why Mayor John Cooper hasn’t attended any of the meetings. There were about half a dozen Metro City Council members and representation from the Mayor’s office present at the meeting Thursday night, but Mayor Cooper was not there.
Metro’s Social Services Director, Judith Tackett, did outline a plan at the meeting that included asking landlords to accept more section eight housing vouchers and launching a new mobile housing program that would immediately remove about 25 people from the encampment and house them at a local church.