Expanding homeless population exposed to bitter cold
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
Another night of bitterly cold temperatures highlights an ongoing struggle in Nashville to find shelter for the city's most vulnerable residents.
The Nashville Rescue Mission will once again have its so-called "cold patrol" on the move Wednesday to offer help to the homeless, whose population continues to grow.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors says the number of homeless families in Nashville jumped by 25 percent in the last year.
"A lot of places just kick the homeless out in the morning - they claim, so they can clean up," said homeless Nashville resident Robert Cross. "If you're kicked out at 5 in the morning, you freeze until the library opens at 9."
What many of us take for granted, Cross can only dream about on a cold night. And advocates like Lindsey Krinks, with Open Table Nashville, can hardly stand it.
"This is a huge problem," she said. "In a city like Nashville, that's booming with new development, we still can't provide for the basic needs of our people. And that is a huge problem."
The city reported a 30 percent unmet need for emergency shelter. Collectively, shelters lack the space for those in need, and increasingly that means those with children.
"The fastest-growing demographic of folks who are un-housed is children in Middle Tennessee and beyond. And this speaks to a huge problem with our priorities," Krinks said.
Open Table Nashville will set up emergency warming shelters Wednesday night, trying to catch those who might otherwise have no place to go.
With a girlfriend and a dog in tow, that includes Cross, who only wants to stay together and warm overnight.
"It ain't as bad as most people say. But the people who do make money, that do have their own little homes, that like to look down on us, I'd like to see them last a week out here," he said.
For all the challenges, the report on Nashville's homeless population also celebrated collaborations among nonprofits and the city's work to house homeless veterans.
But nights like the one ahead reveal a problem that will still take plenty of work and care to solve.
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