Last night, the documentary “Tent City, U.S.A.” aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network. This documentary tells the story of Nashville’s Tent City before and after the devastating flood of May 2010. Unfortunately, not enough has changed since the flood. Now more than ever, we need an officially sanctioned encampment in Nashville. Metro Police have been targeting all unsanctioned encampments including former Tent City resident Macgyver’s last campsite which was destroyed by the city about a month ago. With harsh anti-homeless and anti-camping laws, Nashville needs a safe zone for all of the people who can’t (or won’t) seek shelter in traditional places like The Mission – those who have pets, who work non-traditional work hours, who have spouses/partners, or who simply can’t handle the harsh environment of our over-crowded shelters. While we have approximately 4,000 men and women who are un-housed every night, we only have about 1,500 units of shelter and transitional housing.
We need a safe-zone or an officially sanctioned encampment. We need more outreach workers like Jeannie Alexander, a founding member of this community. And we desperately need more accessible and affordable housing.
Open Table Nashville, an inter-faith non-profit, was formed in the months after the flood and has taken Hobson House under its umbrella. Jeannie and Doug, who were featured in the documentary, were also co-founders of Open Table. If you’d like to join in the work we’re doing, visit our website at www.OpenTableNashville.org. Our mission is to disrupt cycles of poverty, journey with the marginalized, and provide education about issues of homelessness. We are still connected to and involved with most of the people featured in the documentary. They are our friends. As aboriginal organizer Lilla Watson once said, “If you’ve come to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”