Homeless advocates call on city leaders to hold off efforts to close homeless encampment

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-01 19:43:05-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A popular homeless encampment in Nashville is being cleared out.

Six community organizations joined Open Table Nashville and camp residents for a press conference today in front of city hall to show their solidarity.

They're calling on city leaders to hold off on efforts to push out the homeless population under the Jefferson Street Bridge and have more options to provide affordable housing.

A sign posted at the camp read, “Metro property, no trespassing, no encampments after June 1, 2021."

Homeless advocates tell us they didn't feel like this was enough time for people to find a new place to live.

"These people have a right to exist and they are Nashvillians," said Edward Kehoe, with Open Table Nashville, "we need to see them as such."

Kehoe says it highlights a major issue in our city when it comes to affordable, accessible housing.

Metro police tell us the salvation army was able to find housing for all but 2 people. Those 2 have decided they don’t want help - but have agreed to move out of the camp.

Police say at this point they don’t intend to start citing anyone for trespassing.

We reached out to Mayor John Cooper's office and they sent us this statement:

"We’re not content to let our unhoused neighbors live under a bridge or anywhere they’re exposed to extreme heat and other dangerous conditions - especially not when we have an infusion of federal dollars to help encampment residents with alternative housing solutions. Our purpose is to find stable housing for every person living in the Jefferson Street bridge encampment. The population is currently down to 10 to 15 people per day. To date, nearly all of them have accepted Metro’s offer to find them a safe, healthy place to live through the work of our housing navigators.
We’re also helping nonprofits that serve our neighbors in the encampment area find other indoor facilities nearby that offer more sanitary conditions for the important work they do, including bathrooms and commercial kitchens. We recently launched a new campaign to recruit landlords to participate in our rehousing work so we can house even more Nashvillians. And in the last six months alone, we’ve housed over 300 residents.

On the public safety side, the MNPD will be able to provide you with data about the dangerous level of crime that residents are exposed to in the encampment. It’s all the more reason to help everyone there find safe housing, and we’re grateful to all our nonprofit partners helping us in this effort."

Tuesday night there will also be a public hearing around Nashville’s budget.

Supporters of the homeless camp say they plan to attend and ask city officials about plans towards affordable housing.