NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Metro Parks and Recreation says the homeless community in Nashville’s parks and greenways is growing exponentially and the department is asking for $850,000 to renovate Brookmeade Park, an area with a huge homeless encampment.
Thursday, city leaders and community members came together to find shelter for those living in a homeless camp near the Walmart off Charlotte Pike. It’s a place almost 50 people call home, but neighbors say they’ve had enough.
The department asked for almost $2 million from the COVID-19 Financial Oversight Committee. The $2 million would be for work at several parks, but $850,000 would be for a capital project at Brookmeade Park to make significant changes
“The park is at this point not useable. It is not useable. It is quite frankly not safe. So we are looking forward to while this funding is available, while it seems appropriate that we make a request to renovate that park when folks are removed,” Monique Odom, the Director of Metro Parks and Recreation to the COVID19 Financial Oversight Committee said.
The park not being useable is part of the reason why Metro Parks And Recreation is looking to make changes at Brookmeade Park. The possible renovations to Brookmeade Park would include things like trailhead signage, repaving of parking lot, demo of the old bridge and building a new one and trail and an electric gate.
“When we talk about installation of electronic gates here, what we also have found is that if there is not some sort of community solution when an encampment is cleaned up, new residents will move in if there is not a long term solution,” Odom said during the committee meeting.
“This is not a popular thing to say but I will say it. The people who are complaining about not being able to use that park have the ability to get in their car and go to another park. People who live there do not,” Paula Foster, the Executive Director At Open Table Nashville said. “I want people to be able to have their park, I understand that they want to be able to use a park that’s local to them, I get that. I really do. But spending this amount of money on cosmetic fixes when we could spend that amount of money of putting people into homes is obscene,” she added.
Open Table is a non-profit that helps with resources for homeless communities. And Foster said they would like to see requested funds from Metro Nashville Parks, re-directed.
“I got a better use for that money. Why don’t we take that $2 million and take those people that are living in Brookmeade Park and put them in housing for the next 2 years as opposed to putting lights and cameras in the park,” Foster added.
Metro Parks said they recognize homelessness us a community wide issue.
“Where there is a significant homeless encampment, we again have been working with our teams in metro and the community to work to get folks housed. But we as Parks are on the response side. We are on the cleanup side,” Odom said during the committee meeting.
“It is simple. The answer to homelessness is more housing. we need resources, we need financing. we need policy that’s going to promote that,” Foster said.
Officials with Metro Parks and Recreation Department said an interdepartmental working group has been coordinating a housing and public safety response to the Brookmeade Park encampment and surrounding area.