Mayor Cooper lays out plan to tackle Nashville’s homelessness issue
$50M plan will be funded by American Rescue Plan Funds
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – Nashville Mayor John Cooper detailed his plan on how he will use $50 million in federal funds to tackle the issue of homelessness in the city, a plan he described as a housing first initiative.
“Too many of our neighbors are living in horrific and tragic conditions. I have been to many homeless encampments, and I have seen the suffering and the human toll firsthand,” Cooper said. “We know that is not acceptable to me as a mayor and to Nashville as a city. We have a moral imperative to do better and to have a plan that meets the magnitude of the problem, and that’s what this plan does.”
Earlier this year Cooper proposed using $50 million from American Rescue Plan Funds to improve the city’s response to homelessness.
On Wednesday, Cooper said back in July, the commission that reviews and approves how the city spends federal funds approved his plan.
“To create a housing first, it means a lot of upfront capital cost. Doing this now while we have access to federal recovery dollars is essential,” Cooper said.
“This funding is more than a dollar allocation. It’s more than words on a paper,” April Calvin, Interim Director, Metro Homeless Impact Division, said. “The historic funding is literally what could take hundreds of people from hopelessness to homes.”
The mayor laid out four action steps that the $50 million would be used for:
· Building deeply affordable units.
· Partnership with landlords, developers and building owners to incentivize them to relax criteria to help create more affordable housing.
· Scaling up temporary solutions for people while permanent units become available.
· Investing in services like mental health and addiction resources to help keep the homeless community off the streets.
“This is the first administration that has decided enough is enough. We need to stop moving this down the road. We need real solutions. We need a plan and that’s what we’re presenting today,” Council Member Gloria Hausser said.
“I appreciate all that Mayor Cooper and his team are doing to focus on real solutions,” Council Member Dave Rosenberg said. “I’m thankful that Metro recognizes that poorly conceived ideas like building walls around encampments solves nothing but instead disburses its residents into nearby neighborhoods, making it impossible to provide essential services.”
The mayor said $25 million will go toward the first step of building very affordable units. Cooper said one way to do that will be through low-cost loans and said those units will be filled through a system called coordinated entry, which is his way of connecting unhoused to available housing.
But Cooper acknowledged that getting those available may take a while.
“In the meantime, we will create units from construction projects happening now,” Cooper said. “We will subsidize units in developments slated to go online in as little as three months. Units that were going to be rented at market rates will now be deeply affordable and filled through our coordinated entry efforts.”
He said $7 million will be used for the second step of incentivizing landlords. Cooper said in the past year they’ve seen a 74% increase in landlord participating and 47% increase in units available.
Another $9 million is expected to go to the third step in the plan, expanding the work organizations are doing to provide temporary gap housing.
“It’s essential that we have temporary solutions for people in the housing pipeline so that no one has to sleep outside while we find them units,” Cooper said.
This step is one leadership with Community Care Fellowship said will help them do more.
Ryan LaSuer, Executive Director of Community Care Fellowship, said they have been serving the homeless for four years.
“With passing this resolution, we will be able to expand to five locations in 2023 and seven locations in 2024,” LaSuer said. “This will have a projection of serving 500 to 600 individuals through these sites using a 120-day supportive housing.”
For the final step in the mayor’s play, $9 million will be used to invest in services like mental health and addiction, resources to help those who get housing retain their homes.
“Housing with adequate wrap-around resources reduces homelessness. This historic plan promises to do just,” Calvin said. “To help people remain housed, the wrap-around supports services is key in order to help them maintain and sustain housing.”
Some who live in Nashville were there when the mayor made the announcement about the plan at Bellevue United Methodist Church.
“We want to be a part of the solution. We want to know who to get behind. We want to know what nonprofits are actually doing the hard work breaking through those barriers and getting people into the housing,” Rebecca Lowe said.
Lowe was asked her thoughts on the mayor’s plan and if she believes it will help.
“Any good businessperson wants to know the numbers. What’s our return on investment?” Lowe said. “If they plan to put up five more of these, we’d like to know how many people are using the facility successful. What does it cost? What do they need? Is it working? Are people attracted?”
Cooper said Metro Council members submitted nearly 60 questions to his office about the proposed plan and his office plans to post responses online this week.
The mayor also said council members can explore the plan in more detail on Sept. 29 during a working session.
“I urge council members to approve our plan when they meet on Oct. 4,” Cooper said. “We cannot afford to wait any longer. More importantly, our fellow citizens, those who are experiencing homelessness cannot afford to wait another day.”
The mayor’s proposed plan is expected to be include on the Council’s agenda for approval on Oct. 4.
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