NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville's housing agency released the statistics of those experiencing homelessness in the city, with the number hovering just under 2,000.
The Metro Development and Housing Agency configured the numbers through a point-in-time count in late January, when temperatures were around 34 degrees and no Metro overflow shelters. The numbers concluded that 1,916 Nashvillians were experiencing homelessness, a 5% decrease since 2020. No count happened in 2021 because of COVID-19.
"The PIT Count is essential to our work in accurately supporting our unhoused neighbors,” said MHID Interim Director Jay Servais. “It gives us a fresh look at needs, new trends, and the latest trajectory of the community. We're then able to more accurately address their needs, getting them closer to stable living and improved quality of life.”
More than 100 volunteers from 27 agencies and universities took part in this year’s count. Room In The Inn and Nashville Rescue Mission operated their shelter programs and counted people staying with them during that night.
Here's the key findings of their report:
- 71% of the adult population experiencing homelessness on the night of the count were men
- 42% of the adult population experiencing homelessness on the night of the count were Black or African American
- 82% of unsheltered individuals said that lack of income was their primary barrier to finding housing
- 52% of unsheltered people surveyed are experiencing chronic homelessness
- 39% of unsheltered individuals reported problems with substance abuse
- 48% of unsheltered individuals reported mental health problems
- 12% of unsheltered individuals reported being survivors of interpersonal violence
Homeless advocates said the problem could worsen over time after recent Tennessee laws criminalizing those sleeping on public parkland. Gov. Bill Lee decided to allow the bill to pass by neither vetoing nor signing it, despite concerns about how it will impact the homeless.
Lee released a letter on May 3, which said he understood the intent of the bill but that it could be counterproductive.
"I am concerned about the unintended consequences, operational costs and inconsistent enforcement, and we should actively monitor the effects of this legislation," he wrote.
In response, 250 faith leaders across Tennessee wrote a letter asking him to vetothe legislation.
The bill — SB1610/HB0978 — would create a Class C misdemeanor offense for the action, punishable only by a $50 fine and community service work between 20 and 40 hours for camping on public property. In 2020, lawmakers made camping on state property a felony. This happened after weeks of the People's Plaza protests at the state capitol. Faith leaders and homeless advocates have criticized the newly formed bill, saying it only deepens the hardships for those facing homelessness.
As written, the legislation expands the Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012 to apply the offense of unauthorized camping on local government properties. This same legislation died in the legislature in 2021, though it passed the House. Its counterpart in the Senate only received one vote last year.
To learn more about the work of the Metro Homeless Impact Division, visit: http://MHIDNashville.weebly.com or https://www.nashville.gov/departments/social-services/homeless-impact-division