2017 In Review

Dear Open Table Nashville Family,

It’s hard to believe 2017 is almost over. Here’s just a little bit of what we’ve been up to this year:

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That’s right. Thanks to you and your support, 71 people who didn’t have housing at the beginning of this year now have a warm place of their own to lay their head at night.

But there’s still a long ways to go. Affordable housing is scarcer than ever in the “It City.” The cost of living is going up, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. Although we’ve accomplished so much in 2017, we still have much work to do in 2018 and in the years to come. We are SO THANKFUL for you and all of your support, be it emotional, spiritual, practical or financial.

We’re looking forward to another year of disrupting cycles of poverty, journeying the marginalized, and providing education about issues of homelessness. We hope you’ll join us.

Please make a year-end gift so that together we can work towards permanent sustainable homes for all our friends in 2018.

Donate Now

 
 
 
 
Sincerely,

The OTN Team

 

 

 

Homeless and Shivering God

The following is the benediction written by Lindsey Krinks that was given at the 2017 Annual Homeless Memorial in downtown Nashville at Riverfront Park on December 16, 2017, where we remembered 118 homeless and formerly homeless lives lost during this calendar year.

Homeless and shivering God,
God who weeps with us,
God whose spirit stirs the deep,
God by all the names we know you,

Stir our spirits now. Give us strength, comfort, and courage as we face a new day, a new year, without these friends and loved ones by our side. May the spirits of our friends rest in peace in their new home where suffering is no more. And be with us as we go forward. 

CLERGY: With the names of the dead on our lips and the memories of our friends in our hearts,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With lives forever changed by those who have gone before us, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With deep gratitude for friendship, community, and all those gathered around us today,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With hearts broken for those who don’t survive the living hell of the streets,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the secret sorrows we carry in our bones; with all the losses and grief,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the terrible knowledge of what happens to bodies that are denied health care and housing,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the mysterious hope that death does not have the final say,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the great cloud of witnesses hovering over us,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the commitment to more daringly and lovingly embrace our neighbors, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the commitment to more compassionately tend the wounded in our midst, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the commitment to more courageously transform the broken systems in our city and world, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the commitment to use our voices, our time, our energy, our networks, our resources, and whatever political capital we have to create a Nashville that is more equitable and just,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: With the vision of world where everyone has housing, healthcare, and hope, 

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: And with the dangerous belief that creating that world is possible,

PEOPLE: We will go.

CLERGY: Go now to be the hands and feet of change, the blooming of a new and better world.

Go now to embody the Beloved Community—the kin-dom of God—in there here and now.

Go now to re-member all who have been dis-membered in our society.

Go now in gentleness and fierceness to comfort all who are afflicted and to afflict all who are too comfortable.

Go now in disruptive love that brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.

Go now, with the hot flames of hope in your hearts, letting your light shine into every crevice of darkness and injustice in this world.

Alone our lights flicker. Together we blaze.

Amen.

A Home for the Holidays

Home means different things to different people, but at its core, home is that place we land at the end of the day that supports us, provides us safety and shelter, and gives us a place to belong. Particularly during the holidays — there’s no place like home. It has been our joy to watch the power of “home” transform the lives of so many of our friends this year.

Lauren met Brian in the spring of 2015 when he unnamedknocked on her door one Saturday afternoon. He had been bouncing between shelters and boarding houses for several years, struggling with addiction and a disability. Together they worked through several barriers to get him approved for a housing voucher, but just when he was on the edge of moving into a new apartment, he was arrested on an old warrant he didn’t know about while visiting family out of town for the holidays. He was pressured to take a plea bargain and spent several months in jail. When he got out, they had to start the housing process again at square one, but Brian put in the hard work to turn his life around. This January will mark his one-year anniversary at home. He has been a model tenant and one of our most dedicated volunteers. “I’m so glad I met Open Table Nashville,” Brian says, “We’re like family. I’m glad to be in my home now and staying out of trouble. Without my friends there, I don’t know where I’d be. God has been good to send them into my life.”

When Lindsey met Jerry, he was staying in a tent in the woods and was in and out of the hospital nearly every week with severe health problems. He was 67 years old, had been on the streets since 1986, and desperately needed someone to help him find a home. Lindsey helped him get his documents and fill out housing applications and after several denials from landlords, Jerry was finally approved to move into an apartment in South Nashville. He has been home for over a year, has reconnected with his daughter and family members, has a nurse who comes every week, and donates monthly to two nonprofits. “It’s been a miracle,” Jerry says. “If it wasn’t for God and Open Table Nashville, I wouldn’t have a home. I’m so happy here, it’s a much better life. To have a place that my family can visit is a beautiful thing. I thank God every day.”

unnamed-1In June, Becca received a call from Allison who was looking for a home for herself and her one-year-old daughter Juliette. Allison had overcome an addiction and was working hard to provide stability for her daughter. Due to the high cost of housing in Nashville and Allison’s limited income as a single mom trying to both work and care for her daughter, housing in Nashville seemed hopeless and unattainable. Becca got creative in her search for housing and was able to find an affordable sustainable option for Allison in Portland, TN (thankfully Allison has a car!). Drawing on OTN’s strong community partnerships, Becca referred Allison to financial supports covering part of her move-in costs; thanks to our community donors who support our work, Open Table Nashville was able to pay the remaining move-in costs – Allison’s last hurdle to getting into a home. In July, Allison and baby Juliette moved into their very own apartment, where they still reside today! Allison had no belongings when she moved in, but received a Welcome Home kit from us to make her new apartment feel like home. We are so happy for Allison and Juliette, and so grateful for the community collaborations that enabled us to offer her the support she needed to be in her own home and provide Juliette with the stability and security that every mother wishes for her child.

Thankfully, our friends Brian, Jerry, Allison, & baby Juliette have homes now.

Please make a year-end gift so that together we can work towards permanent sustainable homes for all our friends – a home for the holidays . . . and all the days.

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We are ever grateful for you and the many ways you support us!
 
 
Your Open Table Nashville Family,

 
 

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Advocacy and Policy Training Videos

If you missed any of our past Advocacy and Policy Training Events, we have great news! You can now access the entire training for FREE on our YouTube channel.

If you’re interested in learning how to work for justice and address some of the root causes of homelessness, this training is for you. This training focuses on equipping you to…

– Understand what’s happening with policy changes in Nashville relating to affordable housing, the criminalization of homelessness, and other issues that impact our friends on the streets,

– Effectively navigate Metro Council and State Legislature,

– Strategically advocate and organize for change in your community.

Watch the training for FREE below!

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Benjamin “Ben” John Osterlund

Benjamin “Ben” John Osterlund is a 21 year old junior at Vanderbilt University from Evanston, IL. He regularly volunteers at Open Table Nashville’s biweekly resource shelters as an Inn Keeper, meaning he stays at the shelter overnight giving him plenty of time to form relationships with other volunteers and unhoused neighbors.

 

How did you get involved with OTN?
I had been volunteering at Safe Haven Family Shelter and was loving my experience and the impact it was having on me. I was also realizing the depth of the homelessness problem in Nashville, and I wanted to do more to help. I actually just looked online and found Open Table Nashville, who I had heard good things about from friends and people in the Vanderbilt community. Their inn keeping opportunity caught my eye-it was so unique and it worked really well with my college schedule.

What types of things have you participated in?
I have always been an inn keeper, and it is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been able to help out at the Hillcrest, Barth Vernon, and Inglewood resource shelters, and each time I meet some amazing people and have some discussions that really change my perspectives. One of the most meaningful experiences I have had was as a inn keeper last December-Lindsay, who was the shelter coordinator that night, needed an extra hand for canvassing. It was a frigid night, and I got the opportunity to ride along with her and try to help some of our unhoused neighbors get out of the cold. The images and the conversations I had that night broke my heart in a lot of ways, and I think about them all the time; it was an experience that definitely has inspired me to commit myself to the fight to end homelessness.

You are a regular volunteer – why do you choose to spend your volunteer time with OTN?

I truly believe inn keeping is one of the best doses of perspective I could possible find. It gives me a chance to leave my busy college life and all my college friends to get out of the “Vandy Bubble” so to speak. It helps me put others before me and think for a night what it would be like to not have a home, to not know exactly where my next meal was coming from, to not have the security blanket of my friends and family. Every single time I inn keep, I always come back to campus very thankful for what I have, and with added motivation to continue to serve.

The other main reason that I love volunteering with OTN is the other innkeepers and the volunteer staff I get to work with. I have met some amazing people—some who are formerly homeless individuals who are now choosing to help others, and some who are members of OTN who are dedicating their lives to this issue. They have great stories and inspiring demeanors. Plus, they’re just fun to hang out with!

Has your involvement changed the way you perceive your unhoused neighbors?
Absolutely. I think that from an outsider’s perspective, it is easy to put our unhoused neighbors into a singular box, regarding homeless people with stereotypes like dirty, criminal, or other very negative, very untrue things. Spending time in the resource shelters has humanized the issue of homelessness for me. I’ve met people with Masters degrees, people with four adult children, and people who are working three jobs to try to get back on their feet. It has also made me recognize more of the structural things causing homelessness problems like the lack of affordable housing in Nashville and the gap in mental health services. I no longer am associating my unhoused neighbor’s condition with their actions, since I know there are often larger forces at play.

What advice would you give to new volunteers or people thinking about getting involved?
Do it for you! Inn keeping has helped me meet such amazing people, has added so much color to my life, and has helped me grow so much as an empathetic leader that I really feel indebted to OTN. For new volunteers, it is hard for me to describe how impactful some of these experiences can be; my best advice is to find the time, commit yourself, and just do it.

We’re here to end homelessness.

By Haley Spigner, Outreach Worker

At least once a week, I wear one of my OTN shirts that we make for ourselves and to sell. While my “House Keys Not Handcuffs” gets the most comments from strangers, my most worn shirt is a simple, straightforward stencil: “End Homelessness”.

At our annual event last month, Ingrid and Lindsey spoke to the room full of incredible supporters about how far OTN has come during the years since the flood. They spoke of OTN’s mission and vision for our organization and our city as a whole. “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape” will always be my mantra on days where nothing goes as planned. But what has stuck with me weeks after the event has ended, was the simple sentence that I have heard (and worn written on my clothes) so many times:

We’re here to end homelessness.

It’s that vision that brought me to the table in the first place. It’s that vision that keeps me fighting in a city where we are DAILY losing housing for our most vulnerable folks. It’s a vision that keeps me focused on days when I get frustrated with the systems that create the cycles of poverty that capture our friends and keep them stuck for years.

As the end of the year is upon us, our staff meets for our end of year reviews with Ingrid. It’s a time of looking back over the last year and planning for the next. One of the questions that Ingrid asked me during this meeting was “What’s the most challenging part of your job?” While I thought about that question, I told her that my biggest struggles weren’t ones that could be addressed by changing something in OTN’s structure.

The most difficult parts of my job are the days that I have to tell folks that there are no housing options for them because of a criminal charge they were wrongly convicted of years ago that no landlord will over look. The most discouraging pieces of my day are the ones when folks are desperate for mental health and addiction treatment options and I have none to offer to someone without insurance or income. The most challenging and time consuming portion of my job is the constant and often fruitless search for housing that is still willing to accept Section 8 vouchers in a market where landlords can get double its value from someone not utilizing a subsidy. These systemic issues are the ones that weigh me down and they are not ones that the OTN staff can solve on our own.

We are still here to end homelessness. We are still here to break the cycles of poverty. We are still here journeying with the marginalized in a city that wants to pretend we don’t exist. We invite you to join us and to use your voice to cry out against the injustices that our city is subjecting its vulnerable citizens to as their housing disappears and their existence on the street is criminalized.

Welcome to the table.