NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Homeless advocates are calling for better solutions after more than 40 people with COVID-19 are quarantining at an old jail facility.
The residents were previously living at the Nashville Rescue Mission, but officials said they don't have enough room for them to safely quarantine on campus. Officials estimated 40 to 60 residents are currently at the old Core Civic facility on Harding Place. Mission officials said they have reduced space because they are currently building a brand new campus for women and children experiencing homelessness, and those currently staying at the women’s campus are being temporarily relocated to their location on Lafayette Street.
"Whenever you use any kind of environment that has correctional bars, that is triggering for a lot of folks who have a history of psychiatric illness," said Brian Haile, CEO at Neighborhood Health.
Haile said Neighborhood Health has been involved in testing residents at the Rescue Mission for COVID-19. During one round of testing 60 individuals at the Rescue Mission, 17% of people tested positive. Haile said they were immediately moved to a motel to quarantine.
To follow up, the Metro Public Health Department tested 567 people at the Nashville Rescue Mission on July 19. Individuals who tested positive, and who were in contact with someone who tested positive, were then moved to the old jail facility due to a lack of space at the Mission.
Haile said there are better options.
"Most other jurisdictions have a plan in which they use motels, and they rely on large-scale community centers or something like that," said Haile.
He added that the federal government will reimburse Metro for the cost of paying for motel rooms for individuals with COVID-19, and multiple area motels were willing to help.
In March of 2020, Metro set up a temporary overflow shelter for homeless individuals with COVID-19 at the Fairgrounds, but the facility has since closed.
A spokesperson for the Nashville Office of Emergency Management said in an email, the Davidson County Sheriff's Office facility is being used as a temporary overflow shelter for the Nashville Rescue Mission. Other locations throughout the city are being used, as well, but aren't being identified due to patient privacy.
He added several Metro agencies have been in ongoing discussions on how to successfully house the positive cases without impacting other city services and facilities.
Haile hopes to find a way to protect homeless residents, and keep the community safe.
"We know we can do this, but we have to work together," he said.