Nov 22, 2022 - News

Mayor Cooper moves to close West Nashville homeless camp

Illustration of Nashville City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Mayor John Cooper's administration is moving to close the homeless encampment at Brookmeade Park and provide transitional housing for residents there by the end of the year.

  • The administration is also planning to close a smaller encampment at soccer fields near Edmondson Pike. Brookmeade Park were being notified about the decision Tuesday.

Why it matters: The Brookmeade homeless camp, one of the largest in Nashville, has become a symbol of the city's struggle to tackle homelessness and affordability.

Driving the news: Cooper's administration plans to offer at least two transitional housing options to about 45 people living there by tapping into $50 million recently approved to combat homelessness. Transitional housing will be offered through the Salvation Army and the Community Care Fellowship, both of which received funding boosts from the $50 million allocation.

  • Mental health, addiction counseling and other services will also be offered to encampment residents.
  • The city's Encampment Prioritization Team recently identified the Brookmeade Park camp and the south Nashville soccer fields as ones that should receive funding and services first.

What he's saying: Metro Councilmember Dave Rosenberg, who represents the area, tells Axios he wants to be sure the necessary services are provided.

  • "The danger is that if you just close something down prematurely and throw up a fence, that's not going to stop folks from coming there and then they disperse into the neighborhoods or find another place to congregate nearby. You can't fence your way out of it, so hopefully this is followed by the real work you need to do."
  • Rosenberg says his worry is that Brookmeade Park, which is located near a popular shopping area, is being prioritized not solely because of urgent needs but because "really wealthy people who go to shop" don't want to look at homeless people.

Lindsey Krinks with the outreach and advocacy group Open Table Nashville tells Axios the city's focus on closing encampments doesn't address broader problems surrounding housing and affordability.

Krinks says she's glad Brookmeade residents stand to get help but worries about others who will struggle with housing after Brookmeade closes.

  • "We want people off the streets and out of camps, too, because we want them to have dignified housing," Krinks says. "But we also don't think closing off public land during a housing crisis is the way to go about it, especially when there's not enough shelter for everyone who needs it."

Context: Cooper's strategy is to use the funding to significantly ramp up temporary housing capacity, create fast avenues for permanent housing and provide other services acutely needed by homeless people.

  • From November 2021 until October, over 1,900 people were housed by the city and its community partners. Additionally, the mayor's office estimates there are approximately 500 chronically homeless people, many of them living in encampments, in need of services.

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