hobson house nashville

Tent City, U.S.A.

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.”

Ways to help displaced Tent City residents

We recently set up a “Care Calendar” for volunteers to sign up to help some of the displaced Tent City residents who are living at Hobson United Methodist’s parsonage in East Nashville. 

We currently need volunteers who are willing to stay overnight with us at the parsonage as “Inn Keepers” each day from now until the end of August, provide dinner for about 20 people, and/or help to transport residents to appointments, especially in the morning hours.  Being an Inn Keeper involves getting to the house sometime around/after dinner, spending time with the residents, sleeping on the cots provided in the living room, and then leaving sometime the next day. If you stay overnight, you should bring your pillow and sleeping bag. We also have wireless at the house.

To sign up for one of these volunteer opportunities, please visit out Tent City Care Calendar site at http://www.carecalendar.org/logon/45351 and enter the following
information in the appropriate spaces:

    CALENDAR ID      :   45351
    SECURITY CODE :   6077

The address for the parsonage is 1716 Greenwood Ave., Nashville, TN 37206. If you have any questions about these opportunities, please e-mail us at amoshousemercyfund@gmail.com.

*And thanks to our new friend Vish Vishvanath, a photojournalist and kindred spirit, for these amazing pictures. If you’re interested in seeing more of his work from around the world, visit his site.