Pandemic continues to impact availability in Metro's cold weather shelters

Posted at 6:53 AM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 07:53:55-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Cold temperatures meant Metro opened its Extreme Cold Weather Overflow Shelter in the beginning of the year.

However, the pandemic's impact on part of Room in the Inn's shelter plan means fewer shelters at area churches.

The group used to have about 200 congregations offering up space for the homeless population. That number dropped to just 60 in 2021. The number recouped slightly to more than 80 this year.

"COVID wasn't kind," said Melanie Barnett, community development director at Room in the Inn "There were a lot of unknowns. Transportation was an issue. Being in close spaces. We were masking. We were encouraging our community, those we serve, to stay as safe as they could."

The groups that were able to keep open had enough space to allow people to socially distance. Our Savior Lutheran Church has a gym as well as a fellowship hall where people could stay to get out of the cold.

"It's amazing how much you learn about people who are experiencing homelessness," said Doug Scott, one of the church's leaders. "I always remark to people, that this is my third or fourth year participating in this program directly. I continue to appreciate how gracious the men are for the hospitality that we can provide them."

Room in the Inn and the Rescue Mission continue to provide places for people to sleep. Metro's Homeless Impact Division has also recruited shuttle buses to pick up and drop off people at the shelters.

The city has tried to get many of the homeless people into housing. It's a complicated process though and finding permanent lodging can be difficult.

"Overnight, it's the temperatures, anything below 28 degrees and if it's wet conditions, that accentuates hypothermia that much faster," said Chief Jay Servais, interim director of HID.

The groups are also handing out cold weather clothing. They're looking for donations of warm clothing.