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Local pastor wants to build a permanent homeless shelter in Williamson County

Posted at 7:02 PM, May 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-19 06:19:13-04

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF)  — In one of the wealthiest counties in the country, there's a growing homeless population. Now, a local pastor wants to build a permanent homeless shelter in the area.

Hundreds of homeless people in Williamson County currently have nowhere to turn.

Dr. Kevin Riggs said, "More and more people are losing their apartments because the rent is so high."

Riggs is a pastor at Franklin Community Church. He estimates homelessness affects between 750 and 1,000 people in Williamson County. He pulled the data from local churches and non-profits who serve the homeless.

Riggs said, "People don't want to admit that there are homeless in our area."

Riggs became aware of the issue after he met a couple living in their car on Natchez Street.

Riggs said, "They're not transients, but they are people from here, who for different reasons, have fallen on tough times."

Several homeless men used to live in sheds or shacks on a property near West Main Street. However, as homes were being built, they were forced out.

A tall and skinny home now towers over the only shack left standing.

As development runs rampant, Riggs believes it's important to build a permanent homeless shelter.

Riggs said, "Research has shown that when a shelter is done the right way, and there's a holistic approach to it, that crime does not go up, crime can actually go down, and property values can actually go up because you have a place for people to go."

Recently Riggs formed the Williamson County Homeless Alliance and secured several interested donors.

So far, they've struggled to find a place to build an around-the-clock shelter.

Riggs said, "No matter where you put it, it's going to be in somebody's backyard, and that's when the push back will happen."

The group is crossing their fingers, and hoping the community will get on board.

Riggs said, "We're a very generous community, we have churches on every corner, and I think as a follower of Jesus we're compelled to do this. To be honest as a Christian, our attitude should be 'Why not in my backyard?'

Until a permanent solution is in place, Franklin First United Methodist Church is opening an emergency shelter in August. Homeless folks can go there when it's above 90 degrees or below 32 degrees.