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Nashville mayor details 'bold' $50 million plan to combat homelessness

Mayor Cooper Plan.jpg
Posted at 7:58 PM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 23:29:11-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It’s the $50 million plan that Nashville Mayor John Cooper says could be the answer to homelessness in the city.

Metro Council will vote on this plan in their October meeting, but Wednesday was Cooper’s chance to offer clarity on what this funding would accomplish.

“This is a proven model that has been successful in cities across the country and it’s important to bring that model to Nashville,” Cooper said.

The biggest chunk of this American Rescue Plan funding is set aside for long-term housing. Half of this money would pay for building affordable homes through low-cost loans. The city would also reach out to construction projects already underway and offer incentives to set aside a set number of units well below the market rate.

About $7 million would be spent on programs launched in February, where the city incentivizes landlords into easing the restrictions that get in the way of immediate housing. These are barriers like a sobriety requirement or restricting those with a criminal record.

Low-barrier housing was one of many recommendations from a report released this past Spring that criticized Metro’s current approach to homelessness as outdated.

The report titled “Nashville Performance Study of Homelessness and Affordable Housing” called out the city for not doing enough to help the chronically homeless who’ve been homeless for more than a year. They said some people were staying homeless longer and the number of people living outside, in unsafe conditions, had doubled since 2013. They estimated that around 1,900 homeless people lived in the Metro area, with nearly 500 chronically homeless.

“We’ve got to get people off the streets. Our unhoused need a safe place to be. You can’t think about healing until you’re at least in a safe place,” said Council Member Gloria Hausser.

Hausser said she supported the mayor’s plan which includes solutions for how to get people into housing as soon as possible.

The site of Wednesday’s press conference was Bellevue United Methodist Church where for the last year they’ve operated as a mobile housing navigation center.

Ryan LaSuer works for Community Care Fellowship where he says between the Bellevue church and City Road United Methodist Church in Madison, they’ve helped 80 people transition from homelessness. They offer food, shelter, showers, and wraparound services to make sure all help is within reach.

“To get them ready to move into permanent housing. You have to have the permanent housing as part of that, but that is the goal,” LaSuer said.

LaSuer says some of those they’ve helped over the years include those who left one of the most talked about encampments in Brookmeade Park.

At last count, city officials say there are currently 41 people living in the encampment. A number that continues to fluctuate between 15 and several dozen.

The plan is to commit $9 million to build out 7 of these mobile centers by 2024. One solution for temporary housing has been creating micro homes. You may have seen them in other cities across the country. They're FEMA-rated, which city leaders say means they're sturdy enough to withstand extreme conditions. MHID and the mayor's office are currently working on where to place these homes and how much they cost.

Another $9 million would be spent on caseworkers meant to help you keep these homes. That includes help with mental health and addiction services.

“People are getting very sick living in the street. Some are dying and we know that is unacceptable. To me as mayor and Nashville as a city. We have a moral imperative to do better and to have a plan that meets the magnitude of the problem and that’s what this plan does,” Cooper said.

We asked April Calvin of the Metro Homeless Impact Division what it would take to convince those living in Brookmeade to consider gap housing options like the navigation centers.

“A lot of times it doesn’t take a lot of convincing. Once you see one or two of your community neighbors moving into permanent housing, then more typically go in. I think everyone wants to house. It’s a misconception to think that people are outside because they want to be,” Calvin said.

When pressed by Rebecca Lowe of Reclaim Brookmeade Park on why they should trust the mayor’s plan on homelessness, Mayor Cooper admitted the city has not been as proactive as it could have been over the years.

“Everybody has not done a good job of this across the country. Nashville has an opportunity with the size of this plan to be a leading city in actually achieving this. If you all would help me, the first step is October 4 and getting the funds. Without that, we cannot help anybody including our non-profit partners out there doing the job every day,” Cooper said.

Lowe went on to tell the mayor it also starts with better communication between the mayor’s office and groups committed to the issue of homelessness in Nashville.

Cooper's plan could be broken up into four main components:

  • $25 million toward building more deeply affordable housing units
  • $9 million to Metro’s Homeless Impact Division for case management services
  • $9 million to scale up and expand temporary housing solutions they call “gap” housing
  • $7 million to offer incentives for landlords and property owners who would create low-barrier housing
$25 million to provide low-cost loans for affordable housing units $9 million to Metro’s Homeless Impact Division (MHID) for case management services.png