Homeless Camped At Fort Negley Park May Soon Have To Move

Posted at 10:18 PM, Jul 08, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - For Jeff Hill, a modest campsite at Fort Negley Park has been home for the last three weeks.

“This is my little corner I have a boom box, a coffee table, a sleeping bag,” he listed, while showing NewsChannel 5 the two-man tent.

It's at the end of a winding path in the woods and he’s been staying there with a friend while he saves up to try to find something permanent.

“Being out on the street you’re subject to mugging. You go to sleep somewhere you're likely to get robbed,” Hill said.

He has worked a steady job selling the Contributor paper, but he doesn’t have enough saved to keep an apartment. He’s just one of around 50 people camping with donated gear at the park while they look for work, trying to get their affairs in order or just stay off the street.

“They're struggling to get up and this provides a certain measure of stability for them,” said Samuel Lester with Open Table, a group that has worked with Nashville’s homeless population.

But this week police announced the park would be cleared Friday. When officers first found out about the growing camp it was November. And they agreed to wait.

“Due to weather and just the fact that you couldn't in good conscience ask somebody to move at that point we didn't do it,” said Captain Chris Taylor with Metro Parks Police.

But the summer heat brought a firmer stand. And officers said there have been complaints about petty crimes and trash.

Folks at the camp said those to blame have been the minority.

“Most of the camps are incredibly clean,” Lester said, showing tidy tents with small trash piles ready for pick-up.

“Just because we became homeless, we didn't take our virtues and our values and our principles and throw them out the window of a skyscraper and stomp them on the ground,” Hill said.

But police said their hands are tied.

“You don't want to put people out when you know they have nowhere else to stay,” Captain Taylor said, “but again it goes back to a safety issue more than anything else, and we’re responsible for the safety of the parks.”

And if nothing changes Jeff and the others would have to leave their path in the woods to look for another with the hopes it eventually leads them to a permanent home.