“HOUSE Nashville” Rally and Press Conference at City Hall

By: House Nashville Leadership Team

Date: April 14, 2016

What: A rally and press conference followed by a march and sleep-out at Fort Negley

When: FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 4:30pm with press conference at 5:00pm at City Hall, Public Square Park.  March to Fort Negley begins at 7pm.  Set up encampment 7:45.  Enforcement of park rules begins at 11pm.

Why: To demand (1) an end to the end to the criminalization of homelessness and all camp closures, including the closure of Fort Negley, until there is land for authorized encampments in Davidson County; and (2) a commitment for a comprehensive and strategic housing plan to address the need for 20,000 units of affordable housing (0-60% Davidson County Median Income) to be implemented in 2016.

More information:

In Nashville there are currently 104,000 households, not counting people who are homeless, in need of affordable housing at Below 80% of the Area Median Income, which equals about 40% of the total population of the city.  We will need to build approximately 1,700 units of affordable housing each year to house low- to moderate-income newcomers to our city. The only tool that will produce enough affordable units of housing for a significant portion of this population is increasing the Barnes Housing Trust Fund with a bond issue of at least $125 Million, and the only organization that will keep units of housing affordable for good is a Community Land Trust. We have waited too long for government action and we all know that the real estate industry is not capable or willing to accomplish this task and address the housing crisis for Nashvillians in need. We demand that the Mayor’s office and the City Council immediately provide the funding and organizational capacity to meet Nashville’s needs. We want a comprehensive plan for affordable housing and a cabinet level office of housing to report to the people about specific plans, means, and goals to address this societal problem.  It is time to take action now. –Dr. Jim Fraser, Professor at Vanderbilt University

12,112 unique individuals accessing shelter and transitional housing last year, a whopping 34% increase over the year before. Yet that number doesn’t include couples, people with pets, late jobs, or those too traumatized for shelter, and we know many. Also mostly uncounted, the 3,081 schoolchildren (an increase of 8%), plus their custodial parents and children too young or out of school: some 7000 more. Nashville has more than 15,000 without permanent housing or literally on the street, 20-30% of whom are children. MDHA (the Metropolitan Housing and Development Agency) received 15,127 applications for housing voucher support last August, and 14,491 wait, and wait, for slowly occurring vacancies. Yet we cannot end homelessness without stopping the slide into it. One in five Nashvillians— 129,000 people including some 35,000 children —live in deep poverty, often concentrated in areas historically neglected, redlined, and discriminated against. Many families, here for generations, are being driven out of their homes. The suffering is terrible: over half of renters are “cost burdened,” often paying much more than 30% of their income in rent. And it is getting worse. A study in the Journal of Urban Affairs found that for every $100 rise in rent, homelessness increases by 15%. Average 1 bedroom rent in Nashville has risen $220 since the beginning of 2013—predicting, exactly as we have seen, more than a 30% increase in homelessness. Nashville urgently needs 20,000 units of affordable housing now, and more planned to meet rising need.

-Samuel Lester, Outreach Worker @ Open Table Nashville, Tennessean Op-Ed here

Please contact Brett Flener with questions: projects@brettflener.com

Show me 15 Nashville

Show Me 15 Nashville
Press advisory for: Thursday, April 14th
Contact: Anna Wildfong, annawidlfong@gmail.com314.348.3338

Nashville Fast Food Workers Strike to Send Message to McDonalds: “McDonald’s Is Ripping Us All Off”

“These McJob’s Aren’t Just Hurting Workers, They Are Hurting Communities And Our Economy,” Workers Say

 Nashville, TN- Workers in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville TN will join a nation-wide, 24-hour strike by workers in the fast food industry. The April 14 strike comes on the heels of an unprecedented series of pay increases, with workers in California and New York winning $15/hr, and the largest employer in Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, announcing it will pay workers $15/hr. Nursing home workers in Pennsylvania also recently won $15/hr. Cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have raised their minimum wage to $15/hr. Home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15/hr statewide minimum wages. Companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15/hr or higher; and workers in nursing homes, public schools and hospitals have won $15/hr via collective bargaining.

Across Tennessee, the state with the highest percentage of minimum wage earners, workers from fast food and various other industries will be rallying to call attention the need for higher wages and union rights.  The movement has had a tremendous influence, inspiring law-makers such as State Representative G.A. Hardaway to fight to raise the state’s minimum wage.

At the center of the fight is a demand McDonald’s, the world’s second largest employer, end a business model that not only harms the workers, but sets standards and influences working conditions across industries. Workers are striking days before tax day to call attention to the fact that low wages force them to use public assistance while large corporations manipulate the system to avoid paying taxes.

“I’ve worked in McDonald’s for 4 years. I’ve looked for other jobs, but so many jobs in healthcare, hospitality and food service pay minimum wage or slightly above,” said Deanna Gonzalez. “That’s because McDonald’s set a standard of paying the workers the lowest amount possible, no matter how much profit they earn for their companies.”

What: 24-hour strike, rally for living wages and union rights

Who: Fast food workers, community organizations and various legislator

Where and When:

10:15 A.M. CT: Rally at McDonald’s at Charlotte Pike and 48th Ave N

6:00 P.M. CT: Rally at McDonald’s on West End and 27th Ave

Lost and found

Last Easter Sunday, my family decided to take an early spring hike at Percy Warner Park. There was a beautiful sky and we were ready for an adventure. The trees were getting greener every minute and wildflowers brightened up the forest floor. Having the whole afternoon to spend, we chose a part of the park we hadn’t hiked in before and tried to follow the trail markers as best we could. After an hour or so, we realized that we hadn’t passed another hiker for quite a while. The hilly terrain and twisting path made it hard to gauge where exactly we were within the park. The kids sat on a log while my husband tried to get a signal with his phone to check the map. Of course, this was fruitless in the valley of a park area, so we decided to just keep going and see where we ended up.

Matt started up the trail, followed by my older son and I. After a few yards, my younger son called from behind, “Wow! Look at this!” We all turned, expecting to find a snake or toadstool or other treasure from nature. Instead, Isaac was standing behind us holding a coin. “I found it in the log we were sitting on. What is it?” What was it, indeed. We could tell even from the distance that it was silver but too big to be a quarter and not big enough to be a silver dollar. Eli grabbed it from his brother to inspect and fumbled through the long word on the coin’s face: Bund-es-re-pub-lik-deu-tsch-land. Yes, my son pulled a 1987 Deutschmark from a log in the middle of the woods.

We did eventually find our way back to the car that Easter afternoon and had a lot of fun coming up with scenarios of how that coin found it’s way to that unlikely spot. We tried to think of the mathematical probability that Isaac would sit in the right place on that log and stick his hand inside it (yuck) to find this out-of-circulation coin. It was just too crazy a thing, so we decided that it was just all meant to be and the coin now resides on our kitchen counter.

Over the months, I’ve thought a lot about this coin and about the work we do at Open Table Nashville. We find people in unlikely places – under bridges and beside rivers. Last summer, we found a man and his children hiding in a dumpster. These are people who often feel “out-of-circulation” – lost, forgotten, without hope. But, like finding a coin in a log, these meetings are meant to be. We believe in a God who cares for each of us as a special child, never forgotten, never alone. When we, as God’s people, are willing to take the twisty, hilly path, the one that we don’t know quite where it will lead, we rely fully on grace and faith to see us through.

Remember the parable Jesus told about the shepherd who loses one sheep? He takes the time to go back and find that one, even though he has others and leaves them at risk while he’s gone. It’s taken me years to grasp the depth of the promise that story holds – God’s love is powerful enough to find us where ever we are. God’s love for us transcends judgement about how we’ve lived our lives or where we’ve ended up. We are always worthy to be part of the flock, cared for and nurtured. At Open Table Nashville, we believe that everyone deserves the warmth of community and the dignity of housing. We go where we are led to find God’s children, our neighbors, our lost sheep, and bring them gently into the fold.

This Easter reflection was written by Volunteer Coordinator, Liz Shadbolt. Liz is a Deaconess in The United Methodist Church.

Learning the meaning of journey

In recent weeks I have come to the realization that for many years, I have operated out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of being called out of my comfort zone, fear of seeing that I actually have more things in common with my friends who are unhoused than there are things that separate us. The path that has led me to my time with Open Table, Nashville has been a winding one and not one that I started down on purpose—rather I was thrown into the path of some of the most incredible humans I have ever encountered and my life and heart were forever changed.

I am finishing up a Bachelor’s in Social Work and in my classes we talk about nice sounding things like self-determination, dignity and worth of the person, and self care. Other times we talk about not so nice things like crisis intervention, trauma, and addiction.

A few weeks ago I was asked two questions in my Senior Seminar

  1. Do all lives have meaning?
  2. Are there some clients that we should give up on?

The initial reaction I had was:

  1. Of course they do!
  2. Never ever ever ever!

I wrestled with these two questions (and the multitude of others that follow about human nature and the role of spirituality in this work) for some time and some days more than other, I still am and I think that is a good thing.

As I rejoice that a dear friend finally moves into housing this week,

As I remember the friend that passed away this month,

As I sit with a friend grieving the loss of his feet…

I think about these questions.

Do their lives having meaning? Of course they do; they are brothers and sisters and friends.

As I am walking through this semester with the OTN team, I am figuring out what “journeying” with our friends really looks like. As I wrestle with heavy questions I am reminded that I don’t have to have all the answers; I am called to simply love and simply love I will.

Citywide Stations of the Cross

Good Friday, March 25th at 4:30pm
Church Street Park (600 Church St) downtown 

On Good Friday, March 25th, you’re invited to journey across downtown Nashville on foot on a pilgrimage through the Stations of the Cross and ask where Jesus is being condemned and crucified today. The Stations of the Cross originated as a way to help Jesus’ followers retrace his steps to the cross. They often take the form of a spiritual pilgrimage through his suffering and crucifixion, enabling participants to contemplate and enter into the tension of Jesus’ final hours.

Likewise, we’ll journey through our city on a pilgrimage to contemplate what the stations mean for us today and for poor, un-housed, black, and brown bodies in our communities. We’ll visit symbolic places where Jesus and others continue to be betrayed, condemned, helped, consoled, and crucified like the Criminal Justice Center, the State Capitol, Legislative Plaza, the Courthouse, and downtown churches. We’ll meet at the Church Street Park (600 Church St.) directly in front of the Downtown Public Library at 4:00 p.m. You can park at the library and make sure to have your ticket validated at the front desk.

You’ll need to wear shoes comfortable for walking and everyone is encouraged to wear black as a sign of mourning. We plan to conclude around 7:30 p.m. on the steps of the State Capitol (600 Charlotte Ave).

Questions? Contact Lindsey, Education and Street Chaplaincy Coordinator.

Volunteer Spotlight: Pedersons

Volunteer Spotlight: Dave and Michelle Pederson

Dave and Michelle have been long-time supporters and volunteers with Open Table Nashville. If you’ve served at our First Church of the Nazarene Shelter, you’ve met Dave, who orients volunteers there. We are so appreciative for their consistency, loving manners, and do-anything attitudes. So much behind-the-scenes stuff gets done because they are willing to do it! Thank you, Pedersons. Your Open Table Nashville family loves you!

How did you get involved with Open Table Nashville?

Michelle:  I worked with Ingrid prior to the founding of Open Table.  I was impressed and inspired by Ingrid’s courage to follow where her heart led. So, when I saw a posting that volunteers were needed, I contacted Regina.

Dave: Michelle told me that we were going to help out Ingrid.

In what ways have you been involved?

We began helping with set-up a few times at Barth Vernon around 2013. In 2014, we made several donations of household items and that’s when Dave met Ingrid. In 2014, Dave began helping at First Church of the Nazarene as a floater. Over the next year he became the co-coordinator. Once Michelle completed school, she began volunteering as a listener and recently helped create a new welcome process.

How has your involvement connected you to wider ideas of community?

Dave: It made me much more aware of people who are experiencing homelessness.

Michelle: Open Table is well known and respected…the web of connections between people and organizations are made visible all over Nashville.

How do you feel your service has made a difference?

Dave: Open Table is the one organization in Nashville that most emulates Jesus’ ministry. We treat people with respect and see everyone as having worth and dignity.

Michelle: Too often in our society we ignore the “other,” we don’t take the time to really listen. I think that I make a difference by being fully present and available to listen to another person.