“Does the compassionate life not demand that we be present to those who suffer; does it not require that we enter into solidarity with the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden; does it not motivate us both to move into the thick of life and to experience the hardships of existence in solidarity with the outcasts?” – Henri Nouwen
Last Saturday, over 40 Tent City residents packed up their belongings at the camp in Antioch and set out, once again, with no place to lay their heads. Without a piece of land on which to live, the residents were scattered about the city: 7 moved into housing, 14 moved into hotels for a week, some moved into treatment facilities, and several more moved into Hobson United Methodist’s parsonage. Dozens of other Tent City residents are scattered in additional hotel rooms, are couch-surfing with friends, or are camping illegally downtown, but many others have obtained permanent housing in the last two months.
Nearly one hundred former Tent City residents who we know by name are scattered and roaming across Nashville and hundreds more are in the same boat. While Nashville offers a host of services to the homeless community, this city, like many others across the country, is missing an integral piece of the puzzle: an alternative transitional housing site that meets the needs of couples, pet owners, and those who can’t stay in traditional shelters. This was the function of Tent City before the flood. And while a transitional housing site is part of ending homelessness, so is more accessible low-income housing.
Recently, Metro representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Homelessness Commission, and Chamber of Commerce acknowledged the need to fill this gap in services and offered to partner with us to work toward solutions. Discussions are happening, but the 90-day time line to come up with a permanent site for what we’ve dubbed “The Village” is ticking. Furthermore, this Saturday, over a dozen residents will have to leave their hotels with nowhere to go. The parsonage at Hobson is full and for the next 90 days, we desperately need either a location that can accommodate at least 40 people or another church to offer an “around the clock Room in the Inn” like Hobson has done (we can help provide volunteers).
The model at Hobson’s parsonage is based on community houses like Open Door in Atlanta and others. There are house rules, a curfew, community service hours, and chores. The 17 residents have are contributing to the maintenance and up-keep of the house and grounds and are excited about the chance to live indoors for a change. We’re also receiving encouraging e-mails and visits from families and individuals living nearby in the East Nashville community.
We currently need volunteers who are willing to stay overnight with us at the house, provide meals, and help to transport residents to appointments, especially in the morning hours. We also, of course, need temporary and permanent land and space. If you are interested in helping, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to sign up to receive the Tent City Newsletter, e-mail email@example.com.
Also, here are a few of the news articles/stories on the move:
Nashville’s City Paper article, “One man’s uphill climb out of Tent City” by Anne Marshall who has been covering this story since the flood… this article offers the best coverage of what has happened. Also check out the unflinching editor’s note in this week’s City Paper by Stephen George. (It’s pretty impressive when The City Paper shows up The Tennessean like they’ve done through their coverage of Tent City.) Here’s News Channel 2’s story: “Homeless forced to leave temporary Antioch Tent City”, and News Channel 5’s: “Tent City Residents Move Again”.
(posted by Lindsey)
P.S. Thanks to everyone who helped us with the move on Saturday… you guys are awesome.