How a $50 million investment will help solve homelessness in Nashville

  • April Calvin is interim director of the Metro Homeless Impact division and Stacy Horn-Koch is director of SHK Consulting, LLC.

Everyone deserves and should have full access to the fundamental right to live in a stable and secure environment. To achieve this, our leaders must have both the vision and the funding necessary for such an ambitious task.

In April, Mayor John Cooper introduced a three-pronged plan to address homelessness in Nashville — Invest, Increase and Innovate — and backed the plan with a historic $50 million investment. The Metro Board approved the plan on Tuesday.

The city’s $50 million pledge of federally allocated U.S. bailout money will mean investment in a range of permanent solutions that will help Nashville house the homeless and prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless. It also positions the Metro Homeless Impact Division to quickly move homeless people into stable housing, using US bailout funds as a catalyst.

Hear more voices from Tennessee:Receive the weekly opinion bulletin for insightful and thought-provoking articles.

here is the problem

The data shows that, compared to other similar cities, Nashville had a higher proportion of chronically homeless people, who stayed on the streets longer and were unlikely to resolve their own homelessness.

To effectively move people from the streets into housing, Mayor John Cooper has pledged to adopt a national best practice known as “Housing First,” which is rapidly evolving to provide individuals and families experiencing street homelessness and shelters in permanent housing the services necessary to ensure that they maintain housing.

Houston, Texas has had significant success using the “Housing First” model, with a 63% drop in homelessness.

Sign up for the Latino Tennessee Voices newsletter:Read compelling stories for and with the Latino community in Tennessee.

Here is the solution

One thing is certain: more hands and help are needed to meet the needs of those who are homeless.

Historical shortages and employee burnout have resulted in staffing shortages.

The plan directs $25 million of the investment to this area so that there are enough outreach teams, to engage anyone living in camps and gates, screen them and prioritize housing for those who are the sickest.

Sign up for the Black Tennessee Voices newsletter:Read compelling columns from black writers from across Tennessee.

Assess housing needs

An additional $25 million will be invested in expanding reserves for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Highly Affordable Housing.

April Calvin

Imagine finally being able to provide enough housing to solve the problem of homelessness. Well, this plan makes it possible. Due to the tight rental market — with over 95% occupancy and an average rent that has now climbed to $1,530 — we need to create a new base of affordable and accessible housing.

We can do this by; provide top-up financing to developers building mixed-income developments, purchase additional highly affordable units, and set aside for PSH. The $25 million affordable housing funding program is designed to get units up and running quickly, six to 18 months, as it targets developments already underway.

Most importantly, we need Housing First case management that provides the ongoing support a person needs to maintain their housing. Studies show that approximately 90% of people housed rough at PSH with Housing First support services have remained housed.

Owner incentives are another tool

Beyond new construction, Nashville also needs to improve access to existing housing through incentives and guarantees for landlords who agree to rent to low-income tenants who may have bad credit, poor rental history or a criminal record.

Stacy Horn Koch

To date, 100 owners managing more than 2,000 homes have agreed to relax their rental criteria. It’s very simple, we can’t house people unless we have housing to offer.

The good news is that we now know how to use and combine housing strategies in ways that make homelessness rare and brief.

With the approval of the Mayor’s $50 million investment, we can move forward together to make long-standing and widespread homelessness a thing of the past in our city.

April Calvin is interim director of the Metro Homeless Impact division and Stacy Horn-Koch is director of SHK Consulting, LLC.

Comments are closed.