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Bill would create independent Metro office to address housing, homelessness in Nashville

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Posted at 3:50 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 19:27:47-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville needs more than 50,000 housing units by 2030, according to the latest survey.

On Tuesday, a public call to action was made at city hall to change how Nashville deals with housing and homelessness. Open Table Nashville held a rally about creating an Office of Housing and Homelessness.

Coincidentally, Council Member Freddie O'Connell filed legislation to speed up the creation of a city office just like that. It would be dedicated solely to housing and homelessness whereas the two are currently separate. Addressing homelessness is under Metro Social Services while affordable housing falls on the Mayor's Office.

"It's going to be good for coordinating funding. I think it's going to be good for our overall mix of local, state and federal funds over time, and I think it's a good government efficiency model," O'Connell explained.

Right now, Metro homeless outreach workers are without a leader. Both the director and assistant director of the Metro Homeless Impact Division have recently stepped down.

O'Connell thinks they may have felt their division wasn't set up to succeed.

"Now they are in Metro Social Services, but their office is way out in Madison. It sometimes operates kind of as an independent entity, other times it almost seems to collide, like the priorities seem to collide," O'Connell said.

He thinks housing and homelessness are a more natural combination.

"Housing and homelessness are a twin priority for the city and we think we can leverage some serious coordination and efficiencies of government here," O'Connell said.

O'Connell is expecting about eight other council members to co-sponsor the creation of the Office of Housing and Homelessness. He says the office would likely require one new position, a director, otherwise, staff would just shift over.

Meanwhile, a new method for reaching people just kicked into high gear this week. A Mobile Housing Navigation sites opened at Bellevue United Methodist Church. Mayor John Cooper has dedicated $850,000 to the sites, which the city thinks there will eventually be three of.

Since this time last year, Metro reports outreach workers have helped 550 people move into stable housing. In that group, 351 had been homeless for six months or longer.