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.

The Ultimate Exercise in Democracy

By Liz Shadbolt, Volunteer Coordinator


For the longest time, I’ve had this quote from Marjorie Moore in my email signature: “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” As the volunteer coordinator at Open Table Nashville, I truly believe this—and I get to see the transformation of our community alongside our volunteers every day.


At OTN, we focus on outreach: meeting people where they are geographically, emotionally, and spiritually. Even though we have an office space, that’s not where the real work happens. It happens on the streets, in campsites, hospitals, jails—wherever our people are. This can sometimes make it tricky to involve volunteers in the day-to-day work that our outreach workers do. Still, volunteers play a huge part in our overall work, especially in supporting our resource shelters, winter canvassing efforts, donation collections, and special events. These are things that we couldn’t do without volunteer support!


So what does volunteering with OTN look like? For many, it means signing up to serve at one of our bi-monthly resource shelters. There, volunteers set up the space, bring and serve dinner, spend time talking with guests, give hair cuts and do foot clinics. Volunteers even stay overnight as inn keepers and handle the laundry afterwards. Those who sign up to do winter canvassing get a completely different experience—they go out in teams with outreach workers on cold nights to take supplies to folks who are outside. Other volunteers spend time in our donations room, sorting treasures and making Welcome Home Kits for those moving into housing. We are also very lucky to have some wonderful folks who offer their professional advice and skills to us in areas like marketing, technology, and medicine. And aside from all of the tasks and jobs that volunteers do for us, we sincerely value the way volunteers partner with our friends experiencing homelessness. We see amazing friendships form, stereotypes erased, and our community strengthened.


Are you ready to experience community in a whole new way? We’d love to have you join us at the table where we work to interrupt cycles of poverty, journey with the marginalized, and provide education on issues of homelessness.


Ask yourself the question: how do you want to cast those everyday votes about what kind of world we want to live in? Take the next step: fill out our volunteer interest form here or check out opportunities at Resource Shelters here. Follow us on social media. Consider coming to one of our upcoming training events, such as our Winter Outreach Training on Tuesday, 11/14 from 6:00-8:00pm at Glencliff United Methodist Church. 


Dorothy Day is one of my heroes, and this quote from her sums it all up: “What we would like to do is change the world. . . by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its evert widening circle will reach around the world.”

Thank You for Harvesting Hope!

It’s hard to believe that this year’s Harvesting Hope event is over and the end of 2017 is just around the corner. The event was everything we dreamed it would be and more, and we are so thankful for each and every person that showed up to support us as we continue our mission of disrupting cycles of poverty, journeying with the marginalized, and providing education about issues of homelessness.

If you haven’t seen the pictures from our Photo Booth yet, you can view them here! They were pretty great:














And as always, we’re so unbelievably thankful to our sponsors, supporters, and silent auction donors that made the entire evening possible.

Sponsors and Supporters:



















Silent Auction Donors:




















Taco Mamacita


Bratton Farms

Pur Rut

Pinup Skin

Young Living Essential Oils

Miss Kitty’s Bed & Bath

Lucie Rice Illustration & Design

Sperry’s Restaurant

Arrington Vinyards

Batch Nashville

Climb Nashville

Nash Trash Tours

Corsair Distillery

Five Daughters Bakery

Goodman Spalding

Stomping Ground Herbals

Creations Anointed

Clearing The Way Home

Nashville Bride Guide

Rodan + Fields

WSM 650 AM / The Grand Ole Opry

Hot Mama Soaps

Hatch Show Print

Cascade Hollow

Farmer & Morgan

A Message from the OTN Co-Founders

Message from the Co-Founders

At “Harvesting Hope,” Open Table Nashville’s 7-year anniversary party and annual fundraiser, Ingrid McIntyre and Lindsey Krinks, who were two of the co-founders of Open Table Nashville, shared this message to a packed room of volunteers, supporters, and friends.


Lindsey: When Ingrid and I were thinking about what we wanted to say tonight and looking back at the last 7 years, a flood of memories came back from our early days. When we look at our team and community now, we see 12 staff members who are skilled leaders in their field; 6 interns, residents, and AmeriCorps members who are endlessly compassionate; all the incredible volunteers and supporters who have come alongside us; our partnership with a church where we are breaking ground on a micro home village, and other great projects in the wings. But all of this started small with just a handful of people. It started with a few of us saying “yes” – “Yes” to journeying alongside our friends at Tent City who had just been flooded out of the only homes they knew. It started with us saying “yes” to housing, “yes” to healing, and “yes” to hope.


Ingrid: Some of you have been with us since the beginning. Others of you have more recently come to the table. People who are newer to our community often ask us, “What does a typical day look like for you?” or “What does Open Table Nashville actually do? Or mean?” Open Table means there’s always room . . .  for everyone.  And while there is no “typical” day for us, Linds and I wanted to take you on a quick-ish stroll down memory lane that will hopefully help you understand who we are and better appreciate where we are today. Soooo . . .


Lindsey: Hey Ingrid, remember that time in 2010 when there was a flood and it completely changed our lives?


Ingrid: How could I forget?? Remember that time we unintentionally started OTN and my dining room was our office . . .  and my house was our storage unit…. for like 4 years?


Lindsey: Remember how after the flood, we moved 15 Tent City residents into a church parsonage and we all took shifts sleeping on a terrible rickety cot in the middle of the living room for months and months?


Ingrid: Uh, yeah, I remember that… And when my dad used to call me and say, “Who exactly are you spending the night with??”


Lindsey: Remember when we ran multiple emergency winter shelters at whatever church opened their doors to us and “schelped” supplies all across town in our cars?


Ingrid: Oh, the “schelping!!” Remember all those times our cars were so full of shelter and outreach supplies that there was only a little bubble of open space for our heads?  Yeah – “Rolling Donation Stations”


Lindsey: Remember all the new volunteers who showed up to do outreach with us and were like, “We’re going where?? Under those bridges?? In those woods??” Only to completely fall in love with our friends who lived there?


Ingrid: Remember how people we met on that very first day are in this room tonight? Like Pete who lived at Tent City, then moved to the parsonage, then was on our staff and even our board? He’s been in housing and volunteers with us to this day!


Lindsey: Remember that time we met Ken who was in a wheelchair and couldn’t walk and couldn’t talk because of a tumor, but he completely changed our lives? Remember how when he was placed on hospice care, we became his family and were with him until the end?


Ingrid: Remember how I’m usually kind of a grouch at Christmas, but that one time I got to be Santa Claus for people who hadn’t celebrated the holidays or received gifts since they were small children? Yeah – wow.  That was really Christmas.

Lindsey: Remember that time some of our most consistent donors were inmates in prison who heard about us and wanted to “give back to the community” by supporting us? And they still give every month to their brothers and sisters on “the outside?”


Ingrid: Remember when we didn’t know how we were going to pay our bills and keep this thing going and then “manna” happened – a lot? An unexpected check in the mail… a bill paid by a friend?


Lindsey: Remember that time we were the intern site for the students who completely changed their career paths and are now overseeing their own outreach teams? (Sorry Med School!)


Ingrid: Remember the nights we froze our butts off sitting on the ice-cold pavement trying to convince people to come indoors when it was well below freezing?


Lindsey: And then remember all the times our cars smelled for weeks because we transported very sick people to the hospital who refused to ride in ambulances?


Ingrid: Remember that time our friends showed us grace because we make mistakes all the time and are crazy? “Blessed are the flexible…


Lindsey: …For they shall not be bent out of shape!” Remember all the times we’ve been amazed by the resilience, love, and humor from our friends? How we’ve seen them awaken to their own dignity and power and take back their lives?


Ingrid: Remember all the times we’ve gone to the hospital with our friends, unsure of the outcome… and the times when our friends have had to have their toes, feet, and legs amputated because of frostbite?


Lindsey: So so hard…. Remember all the times our eyes were puffy, red, and nearly swollen shut from crying when another friend died on the streets well before their time?


Ingrid: Remember all the haters who’ve said we’re nothing more than a “Social Justice Theater Troop…”


Lindsey: …And then remember that time Anderson Cooper interviewed you on 60 Minutes…


Ingrid: …And then all the haters came running back?! Remember all those congregations who stood with us through the hard times?  (Sometimes love overrides liability insurance!)


Lindsey: Remember that time the Tent City documentary was bought by Oprah and then played on her network and then on Netflix to viewers across the world?


Ingrid: Remember that time Van Halen gave us $10,000? (Thanks Matt!)


Lindsey: Remember those times when we were the first people to hold a newborn baby? Or the last to hold someone’s hand before they passed?


Ingrid: Remember that time when we got milkshakes with a friend on the streets and how that made their entire month? A milkshake…


Lindsey: Remember all the times when our staff has taken care of one another and we’ve been each other’s lifelines?


Ingrid: Remember all the times we’ve spoken out with our voices shaking like a tree?  And how it’s not that we’re brave, but being silent just isn’t an option anymore?


Lindsey: Remember all the times we slept outside, preparing ourselves to face arrest with our friends who were being evicted from their campsites?


Ingrid: Remember that time our friends who’ve moved into housing came back to cook dinners at our Resource Shelters, help us lead trainings, and volunteer with us?


Lindsey: Remember all the times when we’ve gotten to journey alongside our friends through some of the most difficult and important transitions in their lives? Marriages, funerals, surgeries, illnesses, new births?


Ingrid: Remember that time when someone convinced everyone they were having twins, but they weren’t even pregnant?


Lindsey: I do, and I think Lauren remembers that, too!! Remember how just last week in the span of a couple hours, our outreach workers Lauren and Samuel met an elderly man who was dying of colon cancer living on a cushion on the sidewalk, a man sleeping on some cardboard underneath bushes because he’s an immigrant and has no path to housing, and a veteran living on a bench without even a blanket… or a shirt?


Ingrid: Remember how meeting the basic needs of these friends should be our city’s priority but instead we are helping to fund new stadiums, pedestrian bridges, luxury condos and hotels, and new transit plans that will cause further gentrification? #HousingEndsHomelessness


Lindsey: Remember how we have to keep holding our city leaders and elected officials accountable so that we have equitable development as our city grows?


Ingrid: Remember that time when Pedro, who moved into housing 7 years ago, showed up at the groundbreaking last week and STILL had the same housing?  Mind. Blown.


Lindsey: Yes, PEDRO… and if y’all knew Pedro, your minds would be blown, too! Remember all the times our volunteers have come to our rescue, collected enough donations to keep thousands of people safe and warm, and literally saved lives?


Ingrid: Remember how we’ve learned how to hustle to keep this work going?


Lindsey: Remember how we’ve housed 650 people in the last 7 years?


Ingrid: Remember that time we had a dream and finally broke ground on it? … Okay, we could go on forever, but we hope some of these very real memories have given you a better picture of who we are. Whew! 7 years. Only through grace, grit, our community and manna are we standing here with you tonight.


Lindsey: The truth is that we are living today in a very different city than when we started this work. Homelessness is increasing and Nashville is now one of the most income-segregated cities in the United States and one of the tightest housing markets in the country.


Ingrid: We know that in Nashville we’ve lost over 5,000 units of affordable housing in the past year and replaced it with 100, that because of that homelessness has increased by 10%, that all the people in Nashville experiencing homelessness – around 20,000 throughout the year – would completely pack out Bridgestone Arena and would include about 12,000 adults and 8,000 children.  We know that a lack of resources for mental and physical health, substance use, and targeted criminalization are barriers to finding housing for some of our most vulnerable neighbors.


Lindsey: And it’s so important that you know that our goal for Open Table Nashville is not to build the biggest, shiniest, most “successful” nonprofit that we can. Our goal for Open Table Nashville is to end homelessness. It’s to create a culture of radical care in our community. It’s to eventually work ourselves out of a job. But there are forces at work in our city and nation that are bigger than us right now and in order to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice and compassion and equity, we need everyone in this room. We need you and all your friends and networks! Our work started with us saying “yes” to our friends on the streets. And we need you to say “yes” to journeying alongside us and our friends/ We need you to say “yes” to claiming a place at this table.


Ingrid: As we are often reminded, there are lots of people doing good in Nashville.  There are folks feeding the hungry, clothing the naked,  and sheltering those without a roof. Our hope is that somehow – through the bedrock of relationships with our friends experiencing homelessness, with our volunteers, our supporters, our elected officials, our community – that we can not only provide food, clothing and shelter, but we can actually break cycles of poverty, stay woke to systemic oppression, educate ourselves and speak out against the deterioration of the RICHNESS in our community.  We aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and we ask you to come alongside us on this crazy journey. We ask that you say YES to housing, YES to healing, YES to hope in a bold way. Whatever that looks like for you.  Say YES to a seat at the table, because there is plenty of room, and it will take us all.