Nashville examines unconventional solution to homeless problem

Nashville is having to consider non-traditional solutions to homelessness like campsites.

Nashville is having to consider non-traditional solutions to homelessness like campsites.

There are more than 10,000 homeless people in Tennessee, and many live here in Nashville.

Recently, the city disbanded an unofficial homeless camp in a city park, but now leaders and members of the community are considering a unique solution to those left without a place to stay.

Will Connelly, director of the Metropolitan Homeless Commission, says consideration is being given to a city-sanctioned homeless encampment, and it could have advantages for the homeless population.

“Campsites can provide some stability and safety for people who are reluctant to go to traditional shelter, or who can go to traditional shelter but there’s not any space, or they’re barred for some reason,” he said.

Other cities across the country have opted to create an authorized encampment to combat their homeless problem.

Connelly says if put into place, the Nashville camp would operate with a goal of finding permanent housing for people in the camp.

Connelly says closing a camp near Fort Negley in Nashville simply displaced the homeless to other areas of the city.

He added that something must be done to assist the population, as housing costs in the city continue to rise.

“Someone that’s experiencing homelessness and has a lower income and maybe not the best criminal and credit history is competing with all sorts of new people and folks that don’t have those barriers,” he said.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, more than 28,000 children in Tennessee are left homeless at some point throughout the year.

In a recent interview, Mayor Megan Barry expressed her concern for homelessness and pledged to be supportive in helping to provide permanent housing.

“I will continue to support the community-wide coordination like we’ve seen with How’s Nashville and the Homelessness Commission, along with Housing-First approaches,” said Mayor Barry. “Permanent supportive housing is an excellent solution to ending homelessness and does save taxpayer dollars.”