Metro to close homeless encampment under Jefferson Street bridge; advocates hope for alternatives

Posted at 1:00 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 14:00:23-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Groups that work with people experiencing homelessness are raising concerns about a Metro plan to close down an encampment under the Jefferson Street bridge.

Officials have plans to close the encampment, promising them more permanent housing soon. However, Open Table Nashville’s India Pungarcher worries about the message the closure can send.

“It really is perpetuating this idea that it’s okay to raid camps and force more instability upon people experiencing homelessness and again prioritize this idea of what we want Nashville to look like,” said Pungarcher.

City officials say the closure is because of an infusion of federal money that can be used to help people struggling with homelessness. In a statement, Mayor John Cooper's Office wrote:

"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."

But advocates worry that it won't be that simple.

“There are groups that are really diligently trying to get people housing, but the reality is a lot of people aren't going to have housing by June 1,” said Pungarcher.

So Pungarcher is hoping Metro leaders can find an alternative. "We want to meet them with care and patience, and we want to allow them to stay at camp while they’re waiting for housing. We can’t just keep shuffling people around because we don’t want to see them.”

Metro Nashville Police said they aren't planning to have any enforcement of the area on June 1 since they say most of the people currently staying under the bridge are planning to move to more permanent housing options.