By Haley Spigner, Street Outreach & Resource Navigator
My last blog post told the story of my friend Cliff and his campmates and how they had been forced to leave their campsite. That was at the beginning of March and in the time since he was moved from there, he has been forced to move two more times and is being forced out yet again. A police officer who called to give me a heads up that the camp was being closed expressed his concern that he didn’t want folks moving back to old campsites and beginning a game of “Whack-a-Mole” where they moved back to spots that were being checked regularly and then were forced to move all over again. I share that same concern but from where I am sitting, the “game” began a long time ago—it was never very fun for anyone involved at best, and is traumatic and life-threatening at worst.
Again, here I sit, with camp residents asking me where they should go, knowing full well that there are no legal options for campsites. We knew this day would come and have been working earnestly and urgently towards housing but the truth remains that accessible and affordable housing in our city is disappearing at an alarming rate. People are being forced out in the name of development or “revitalization.” Many of the residents in this camp are somewhere in the process of housing but it cannot be hurried along to meet the one to two week deadlines that we are given.
New roads, new drive-in movie theaters, and new apartments are not bad or evil things but when they come at the cost of the few affordable housing options we have left, they are hard to stomach. When the new shiny play things are built, it is our friends on the street that suffer and are pushed further and further out of the city (which means further from the service providers that they utilize for food and resources). It seems that Nashville wants those experiencing homelessness to be out of sight and therefore out of mind—but I want to remind them that closing the camp does not result in the individual people ceasing to exist. Until housing becomes more accessible they will still be here… They will still needing housing… They will still be living in the tents that people so want to pretend aren’t there.