Flooding kills 2, devastates others in homeless community

Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 01:07:34-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After weekend flooding killed two members of the Nashville homeless community and washed away others' belongings, advocates are rallying to help them.

Outreach workers from Open Table Nashville have returned to encampments impacted by the flooding to check on residents. Officials said many of the camps where homeless individuals were living are now uninhabitable and people’s possessions and supplies have been destroyed.

"Their homes are their tents and their campsite," said Paula Foster, Executive Director of Open Table Nashville. "They have camaraderie. They have a community and that has been washed away."

The organization had been using the Rodeway Inn for temporary housing for residents, but the hotel also sustained extensive flood damage. Officials said many residents who had been staying there are now also forced to relocate.

"It's been incredible traumatic for the providers who provide services and love these people, and for the residents," said Foster. "They had to watch other people being washed away."

Metro Police confirmed a 64-year-old man identified as Fredrick Richards, and a 46-year-old woman was found dead near a homeless camp in a wooded area on Edmondson Pike. Police said the area had been flooded from Seven Mile Creek.

Foster said a local church helped provide shelter for people in need Sunday and Monday night, but more long-term solutions are still needed.

Foster added the flooding was a learning experience for Open Table and other outreach organizations.

"I don’t think there was a coordinated effort among outreach programs to warn people and instill a sense of urgency the way we should have," said Foster. "We are going to see about getting together to come up with an emergency response plan that will be preemptive."

Foster said the next challenge will be when temperatures drop below freezing later this week. She said Metro is planning to open an emergency warming shelter Thursday evening to help ensure residents can get out of the cold.

Officials with Open Table Nashville said their biggest needs are monetary donations, and gift cards to places like Kroger, Walmart and McDonald's. The gift cards will allow residents to get specific things they need.

For more information on how to donate to Open Table Nashville, click here.