Nashville posed to create an Office of Homeless Services

nashville homeless camp.JPG
Posted at 4:37 PM, Jun 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 19:22:17-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In the coming months, Nashville could have what homeless advocates have wanted for at least a decade: a department dedicated to people experiencing homelessness.

The Office of Homeless Services was proposed in the fall and was up for a second vote on Tuesday night.

"I do think building on this consensus to have a single point of contact, authority and accountability is going to serve the city well," said Metro Council Member Freddie O'Connell, who proposed the bill.

If created, employees working in Metro Social Services' Homeless Impact Division would be transferred to this new department.

In the last few years, not having a stand-alone city department has lead to poor communication, according to homeless advocates.

"You had Metro Social Services working ahead, and, for example, opening up a shelter during COVID for people experiencing homelessness, but it wasn't telling the Metro Homeless Impact Division [director] they were doing that or collaborating with them as really as the experts, as the people who work everyday with people experiencing homelessness," said India Pungarcher. "They weren't working together, asking people what are best practices, how things should be done."

India Pungarcher coordinates outreach work at Open Table.

When it comes to the roughly 2,000 people living on Nashville's streets, she said nonprofits have historically done most of the grunt-work.

"For better or for worse our government has definitely relied on nonprofits for a very long time and still does. Getting folks the supplies they need to survive, housing applications, getting housing and actually moving them into housing — that's nonprofits that are showing up every single day and doing the work," said Pungarcher.

A director to lead the new department would either be appointed by the mayor or selected by the Homelessness Planning Council.

The third and final vote is July 5.