Council Member Wants Changes to Metro's Cold Weather Plan

Posted at 4:03 PM, Nov 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-03 20:02:41-04

A Metro Council Member has rallied support for a bill he said will help protect homeless residents in the cold weather.

Jim Shulman appeared before the Metro Homelessness Commission Friday. He sponsored a bill that would require Metro to open and operate an additional shelter when it is 32 degrees or below.

Currently, under Metro’s Cold Weather Community Response Plan, community partners like Room in the Inn, the Rescue Mission, Oasis Center and Open Table Nashville operate shelters across the city for homeless residents. Metro will only open an overflow shelter if its 25 degrees or below.

“If we have people being left out in the cold, I want to do something about it,” said Council Member Shulman. “I just want people to have a place to be safe and warm.”

During discussion at the meeting, some expressed concerns about the bill’s lack of specifics. Others said it doesn’t address costs.

However, some homeless advocates said space at the traditional shelters fills up fast, and some homeless residents don’t want to go to those locations. Shulman’s bill would provide another option.

“It would benefit the homeless community because all we want is to be in the warmth like everybody else when it’s cold,” said Howard Allen, a homeless advocate who is also the co-founder of the Nashville Homeless Underground.

Supporters also argued that the Metro Council is considering spending millions on transit and a MLS soccer stadium, and the homeless community should also be a priority.

The Metro Homelessness Commission estimated it would cost around $8,000 a night to operate the additional shelter. Based on numbers from past years, the shelter would be open 50-60 nights a year.

Metro’s current Cold Weather Community Response plan started in 2013, and has been adjusted each year.

The Commission planned to continue discussing the bill with community partners.

“In my mind, it can only help,” said Judith Tackett, with the Metro Homelessness Commission. “I also want to state we need to look at solutions to get people inside. Homelessness is a crisis regardless of the weather.”

Council Member Shulman’s bill will come up for a second reading at the Metro Council meeting on Nov. 7.