Budget issue keeps Metro from opening emergency shelters this winter

Posted at 3:20 PM, Oct 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-16 23:23:02-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville will not be providing emergency shelters this winter.

The news came as a surprise to several, including officials at the nonprofit organization Open Table Nashville. According to them, it's the result of a lack of funding.

They say former Mayor David Briley was in talks with Metro Social services and other stakeholders about a solution to the depleting budget. But the issue was put on the back-burner with the intent to revisit it after the September runoff election.

It wasn't until Monday that the group learned Metro Social Services won't be able to bring Metro's homeless in out of the cold.

The emergency shelter initiative is funded, for the most part, by Metro Social Services, but city officials say other departments also contribute.

The city and Open Table is now left scrambling to find a solution as the temperatures begin to dip and the mid-state could see its first frost of the season.

"There's a lot of people in this city on the street who don't fit into traditional shelters," Open Table's Lindsey Krink said. "We're still reeling, we're still trying to figure out what we're going to do, it's been a huge shock."

Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman said he was just as surprised.

"I thought we had a plan in place for this year, apparently we don't," Shulman said. "We cant leave the people of Nashville outside when its freezing outside...we don't have a choice, we have to get something together."

When asked about the budgetary issue, Mayor John Cooper's office released this statement:

"We are meeting with the Department of Social Services later this week to learn more and get a better understanding of why this decision was made by the previous administration."

However, Thomas Mulgrew with Briley's office clarified that the decision was not made while Briley was in office.

"The decision to close the cold weather shelters was not made by the Briley administration. It is false for anyone to say otherwise."

Cooper's office sent a second statement clarifying their initial response:

"We are committed to ensuring that vulnerable residents are taken care of in a cold weather situation. Mayor Cooper met with Vice Mayor Shulman this morning to discuss this shared priority. Tomorrow, the Mayor’s Office will meet with the Department of Social Services to discuss shelter availability and to receive an update on the impact of previous budget decisions that led to this situation. Together with the Metro Council and Departments, Mayor Cooper looks forward to addressing this situation before any winter weather occurs and will share updates with you."