NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A debate is underway over the future of a homeless encampment under Jefferson Street Bridge.
According to the non-profit, Open Table Nashville, city officials and the Metro Nashville Police Department are planning to clear out and close the homeless area on June 1. Once cleared out, the area is to be fenced off from the public.
Open Table Nashville added the city plans to relocate any remaining residents in the area to another encampment located south of downtown known as "Tent City."
A representative for metro police said that's not the plan. The representative said the Salvation Army has already found housing for many who were in the camp, and of the 14 left, only two people don't have a housing plan now. The representative said June 1 is going to be a clean-up of the site.
However, when News4 spoke to seven residents at the camp, the majority of the people in the camp at the time of the visit, they claimed they didn't have a plan for where to go next.
Major Ethan Frizzell, Area Commander for The Salvation Army Nashville, said in a statement;
"The Salvation Army continues our local and state leadership of best practices in services to the socially displaced. We invite the community to join us in creating welcoming community for those coming out of the homeless experience.
The Salvation Army has been working directly with the encampment under Jefferson St. Bridge since the March 2020 tornado. During that time, we have assisted the city in helping the encampment follow Covid-19 guidelines, provided daily meals, and most importantly, worked directly with the residents to find rapid rehousing solutions to move them into permanent housing through our LIFNAV program. At this time, 150 individuals across the city, including Jefferson St. encampment, have found permanent housing through our LIFNAV program, and many others have found housing through partner agencies using similar approaches. Once in housing, our LIFNAV coaches continue to work alongside our neighbors to overcome remaining barriers, locate resources such as Food Stamps, VA benefits, etc. and help them reach the individuals goals to attain their preferred quality of life.
We continue to work with individual towards housing solutions that will best suit their needs, and will continue those services across the Metro after June 1. Church groups and compassionate individuals are welcome to join us in daily meal service, hosting a LIFNAV Hospitality Hub, or providing shelter with a financial gift. "
Open Table Nashville says that displacing people who already have nowhere to go perpetuates a pattern of poverty and further entrenches people in a homeless lifestyle.
The non-profit cited a study done by the National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness stating that "Using the criminal justice system and other municipal resources to move people who have nowhere else to go is costly and counter-productive, for both communities and individuals. Research shows that housing is the most effective approach to end homelessness with a larger return on investment."
Open Table Nashville says its organization is committed to exploring what it calls, "...more humane and cost-effective alternatives to using taxpayer dollars."
The alternatives mentioned by the organization include offering hotel vouchers and creating sanctioned encampment areas.