Happy Birthday, Mr. Whiskey

By Lauren Plummer, Outreach and Program Coordinator

Friday night at the Barth Vernon UMC Resource Shelter we got to celebrate our dear friend’s 59th birthday.

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“Mr. Whiskey,” as we affectionately know him, was recently freed back into the care of his friends and community from the walls of a CCA prison. When I met him a little over three years ago, he was sleeping in a parking lot in Madison, had recently had a few heart attacks and triple bypass surgery. He was drinking a lot to console himself about hard times and all the loved ones he had lost, but he’s always had a tender heart and prides himself in looking out for his friends. We partnered with a SOAR outreach worker who helped him get approved for disability benefits. Somehow, despite his terrible health, he had been previously denied, so when his back payment came, he had enough money to purchase a small mobile home. He finally had his own place after eight years on the streets, and it seemed like a dream come true.

Less than two months later, it all came crashing down. A misdemeanor for public intoxication put him in violation of his probation, and he was sent to a private, for-profit prison for two years. In that time, his home was confiscated by the trailer park, and his health continued to disintegrate. He was released from prison to the streets late this summer, with a failing heart and without a penny to his name. While we are so glad to have him back in our arms, his mischievous storytelling back in our lives, and hilarious voicemails back in our inboxes, he has come back to us weaker and more vulnerable than before.

What kind of society locks a person in a cage and calls it treatment? Takes away someone’s home and community and calls it rehabilitation? Turns him out on the street with nothing and calls it justice served? Mr. Whiskey, and everyone suffering under the weight of systemic poverty, racism, and injustice—of predatory policing, substance abuse, mandatory minimums, for-profit prisons—we see you and will fight alongside you for as long as it takes. May we all surround you with love and the divine power of community. Let this be the year we manifest housing, healing, and hope together, with all of our neighbors.

Happy birthday, friend. There are better days ahead.

This just in: Summer outreach needs

Here’s a list of things we’ve been needing lately for summer outreach. You can either buy items through our Amazon wish list and have them delivered to us, or drop them off in person at our new office at Glencliff United Methodist Church, Tuesday-Thursday, between the hours of 9am-3pm.

Many of these items are frequently on sale at local drug stores and grocery stores.

  • Pop-top foods (Soups, spaghetti-os, chicken and tuna, chili, etc)
  • Peanut butter
  • Crackers
  • Soft snack, granola & protein bars
  • Fruit cups & juice boxes
  • Outreach first aid sets (singles of pain reliever, band aids, antibacterial ointment, allergy meds, tums, alcohol wipes)
  • Men’s and women’s underwear
  • Cotton socks
  • Ensure/protein shakes
  • Multi-vitamins
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • $5 McDonald’s gift cards
  • Small flashlights

Seeking Restoration in An IT City 

My husband and I were married under a huge oak tree in Florida three years ago. One of my close friends was preforming the ceremony and every word had been perfectly crafted to be unique to my relationship with my partner and what we believe our purpose and calling is. In lieu of more traditional scriptures, we felt one in particular encompasses what we hope to see come to fruition through our marriage and our lives, individually and as a team.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

How beautiful is that? It speaks to the restoration of broken things. It speaks to beauty and potential in areas that are portrayed as forgotten and wasted. As our heartbeats are for our friends on the streets, those overlooked and under resourced, resilient yet struggling… this verse felt like an echo of the desires that swirl in my heart on a daily basis.

Make the community livable again. Those are words that probably do not often come to mind when people think and talk about Nashville, TN. Terms like IT City, Up and Coming, nightlife and music scene smother articles about our growing city.

But there is an underground of Nashville. One littered with past due utility balances and eviction notices. One where people of color and people in poverty are being forced out to make room for the affluent. We see the brokenness that occurs when profit is valued over people. When this happens we miss out on the talents, experience and beauty that the displaced offer to our community.

A community can not be considered livable if it is not livable for all. Even in the shadows of Nashville’s progress this passage still haunts me, encourages me, and challenges me more than ever before.

A quick Google search shows the value of the following things when determining the livability for a city: “Infrastructure and natural environment, social programs, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, support for mental health and marginalized populations” (Cities for People). Cites like “Livable City” echo these values and also emphasize the necessity of affordability, specifically related to housing, to maintain the diversity and livability of a community.

I invite you to dream with us about what a truly “livable” Nashville would look like. Perhaps one where a grandmother with three grandchildren has a place alongside a talented businessman. One where a person on the street’s voice and needs are considered by our leadership and not blighted out by developers promising the highest dollar.

What does a city’s livability look like to you? How can we seek restoration in an “It City” who has left so many behind?

Elizabeth Langgle-Martin
Street Outreach and Resource Navigator

Silent Vigil and Press Conference at Mayor’s Address

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 28, 2016

Contact:

projects@brettflener.com

615-948-1458

What Does the “State of Metro” Look Like From Below?

Local organizers and homeless camp residents to hold silent vigil at Mayor’s State of Metro Address, followed by “The People’s State of Metro” press conference

What: Silent Vigil and “The People’s State of Metro” Press Conference

When: Friday, April 29, 11:30 a.m. (vigil) and 12:30 p.m. (press conference)

Where: Ascend Amphitheater, 301 1st Ave. South

Nashville, Tenn. — This Friday, April 29, more than 150 people from across Nashville will join with homeless camp residents and local organizers active in struggles for social, economic, and racial justice to hold a silent vigil during the Mayor’s State of Metro address. The purpose of this vigil (and the press conference following it) is to highlight the contrasts between the rapidly booming “It City” and the daily struggles for survival experienced by tens of thousands of Nashvillians who are not reaping the benefits of Nashville’s growth. By gathering during and after the Mayor’s State of Metro address, organizers will invite city leaders and stakeholders to place people over profit by building a Nashville that truly benefits all of its residents, especially those who continue to struggle in the shadows of the city’s progress.

The vigil to be held during the Mayor’s State of Metro address will highlight the fact that Metro continues to move forward with the dismantling of the encampment at Fort Negley despite the fact that some residents still have no place to go. In the absence of (1) land for authorized encampments that adequately address all unhoused persons’ shelter needs, and (2) a comprehensive affordable housing plan (0-60% Davidson County Median Income)—both of which residents and advocates demanded on April 15 at a rally at City Hall—the displacement of the residents at Fort Negley and other encampments is an insufficient and immoral response to Metro’s affordable housing crisis.

“If we don’t stand up now, then we’ll all fall together,” says Ray Telford, a homeless camp resident in Nashville. “It’s not just about Fort Negley—it’s about all of us. Where are people supposed to go? It’s going to take all of us to change this and we’ve got to unite and raise our voices. We need to be heard.”

While housing advocates have expressed appreciation for Mayor Barry’s recently announced $10 million addition to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, they have also made clear that $10 million does not come close to the $125 million that housing experts have recommended be added to the housing trust fund in order to adequately address Nashville’s affordable housing crisis.

“We are at a critical moment in Nashville’s history as a city,” says housing expert and Vanderbilt University professor Jim Fraser. “While some people are benefitting from the upscale development around town, many Nashvillians have seen their wages stagnate while housing values have far outpaced what they can afford. This is not a new problem. We know that many people, upon whose backs this city’s prosperity has been built, are struggling everyday to makes ends meet. The provision of safe, decent affordable housing for all people living in Nashville must be a priority.”

Following the Mayor’s address, organizers will hold “The People’s State of Metro” press conference. Because homelessness, housing, and criminalization are deeply intertwined with issues of workers’ rights, fair wages, economic and racial justice, mass incarceration, healthcare, immigrant and refugee rights, and other struggles for dignity and survival, The People’s State of Metro press conference will bring together leaders from these issues and movements to proclaim loud and clear what the “state of Metro” looks like from the underside of our city.

The People’s State of Metro press conference will highlight the critical importance of prioritizing “People Over Profit.” A Nashville to celebrate, organizers will argue, is one that incorporates at every level a priority for all of its people before it secures profits for high-end and entertainment development. It is possible to develop a city in a way that benefits its most vulnerable and historically exploited and ignored residents, but organizers will provide evidence for the fact that the current “State of Metro,” where one in five residents lives below the poverty line, looks different from the perspective of those left out of its recent successes and growth. A Nashville that actually holds people over profit is a Nashville that benefits all of us.

Schedule of Events:

11:30 a.m. – Silent Vigil outside of Ascend Amphitheater

12:30 p.m. – The People’s State of Metro Press Conference on the public lawn adjacent to Ascend Amphitheater

– END –

Good Faith and Contradictions of Fort Negley Evictions

After protests Friday highlighted the injustice and cruelty of pushing people out of camps when they have no place to go, Mayor Barry announced Saturday that “We don’t want to kick anybody out. We want to help them find a place, and that’s what we’ve been working on for the last four months.”

The city’s actions contradict the Mayor’s statement. Police have ticketed 6 people, including 2 couples and 2 people with pets, none of whom could go to the Mission. One of the women ticketed was pregnant, and she fled the camp. Police have also repeatedly woken people up between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. And on the eve of Earth Day, reportedly to start a nature trail, workers have started clear cutting Fort Negley within 5 feet of campsites, removing decks and tents. These actions deliberately create a climate of fear and traumatize our friends already suffering from the anxiety and uncertainty of homelessness. These actions can only be understood as harassment. Ironically, the city’s master plan for Negley budgets over $2 million to turn Greer stadium into a field where “authorized encampments” will be permitted for Civil War reenactors. But for those desperately in need, no land has been found, and they have no place to go. We also have reports of other camp closures in the city, demonstrating, as we feared, that residents have no hope of peace if they move to other camps.

The Mayor says the city has “identified” housing for residents. Examination of their status shows, to the contrary, that in only 3 cases has housing been “identified” for those still at Negley. When “identified,” daily outreach teaches us that it takes two weeks to a 1 ½ months to get people moved in, when it doesn’t fall through: vouchers must be received, applications filled out, background checks run, inspections scheduled, passed, and sometimes repassed, deposits paid, furniture provided, leases signed. People need a safe space during all of this.

We ask the Mayor to:
  1. Stand by her statement that she would enforce the camping ban on a “case by case” basis, and work with those “showing a good faith effort” to find other housing. No one should be pushed out when they are working on housing and have no place else to go. All those remaining at the camp, as we note below, are making good faith efforts.
  2. Stop citing, arresting, evicting, and threatening impoverished residents with fines and jail time at Negley or other camps in the city. If campers must be displaced, and they cannot be housed immediately, land must be found where they can live without fear of citation, arrest, or eviction for necessary acts of daily living (sleeping, camping, etc.).
  3. Stop clear cutting brush and trees and other actions that instill fear and anxiety in campers and destroy the natural beauty of the park.
  4. Establish a plan for funding and building at least 20,000 units of affordable housing for those most in need (0-60% of Davidson County Median Income).

The 19 people below are making good faith efforts to find housing:

 1. C has 3 cats and can’t go to the Mission. He has been waiting for a Section 8 voucher for over 6 months. – Green Street is making an exception about their “no pet” rule and C will relocate there Monday.
2 and 3. J and J, a couple, can’t stay together at the Mission or Green Street. They are working with social workers on a plan for their housing.*See below
4. and 5. T and C, a couple, can’t stay together at the Mission or Green Street. They finally received a Section 8 voucher and are actively looking for housing.*See below
6. and 7. R and B, a couple, can’t stay together at the Mission or Green Street. They have applied for housing and are waiting for a voucher. – They are looking for a camp where they can relocate.*
8. and 9. J and S, a couple, can’t stay together at the Mission or Green Street. They have applied for housing and are waiting for availability.
10. and 11. N and T, a couple, can’t stay together at the Mission or Green Street. They are waiting for a
voucher. *See below
12. D has applied for housing and is waiting for availability. She has had bad experiences in the Women’s Mission and feels safer on the streets. – D is hoping to relocate to another camp.
13. R works hours that make it impossible to go to the Mission. He has applied for housing and will receive a Section 8 voucher May 3rd.
14. V, a veteran, has applied for housing, but is waiting for documents to complete the application.
15. R was, until last week, with his partner at the camp. The tensions surrounding eviction led his partner to leave. – He is on a waiting list for housing and is planning to enter rehab and then move to another camp.
16. C has applied for housing, works hours that make the Mission unsuitable, and is waiting for documents to complete his housing application.
17. C, a veteran, has a cat and is working with Operation Stand Down to secure housing.
18. D, a veteran,  has had bad experiences at the Mission, has applied for housing, and is waiting for documents to complete his application.
19. B, a veteran, was in the hospital last week, and is getting connected to housing through the VA, and is waiting to go into rehab.
*These couples were given 10-day hotel vouchers by Metro on April 22nd. Metro Social Services is trying to fast-track their housing, but what happens when the 10-days run out? And more importantly, what happens to all the couples and camp residents across the city who aren’t lucky enough to get hotel vouchers and to be fast tracked through long waiting lists?
Ft. Negley residents
Fort Negley residents. Photo: John Partipilo

Ft. Negley Coverage

We are grateful to those in the media who are covering the situation at Ft. Negley, and we’ll be updating this list as more media comes in. If you’d like to reach us for an interview or story, please contact Sophia Agtarap, Communications Coordinator.

Bloomburg

April 15: The Affordable-Housing Crisis Moves Inland

Nashville Scene

April 14: Barry pledges $10 million for affordable housing, but it won’t help those currently homeless

The Tennessean

April 13: Chris Scott Fieselman speaks about Fort Negley deadline

April 14: Fort Negley homeless camp again faces deadline to disband

April 15:  Mayor Barry moving ahead with Fort Negley homeless camp closure

April 22: Metro clears abandoned homeless camps at Fort Negley

Fox 17 Nashville

April 16: ‘Residents’ Still Living at Metro-owned Park After Eviction Deadline

Nashville Public Radio

April 15: Eviction Day Arrives At Nashville Homeless Camp, Protests Expected

April 26: Nashville’s Homeless Scatter While A Task Force Slowly Crafts New Encampment Rules

News Channel 5

April 15: Homeless Campers Ordered To Leave Fort Negley

April 15: Homeless March, Protest Against Ft. Negley Restrictions