On May 8th, MDHA reported a 14% decrease in homelessness in Nashville due to a lower number from the annual “Point-in-Time” (PIT) Count, but this number was never meant to tell the full story of what is going on with homelessness in Nashville.
While MDHA’s final PIT Count number only found 1,986 people experiencing homelessness, we estimate that approximately 20,000 people are un-housed in Nashville—a number high enough to completely fill Bridgestone Arena. For instance, the PIT Count only found 62 people in families with minor children this year, but according to the Metro Nashville Public Schools, 3,368 homeless children have been identified so far in the 2018-2019 school year—up 5% from 2017-2018. That does not include children whose housing status is not reported, the number of adults in their their family, or children who are too young to attend school.
Due to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s federal definition of homelessness, the PIT Count can only include people found in shelters, transitional housing facilities, outside, in a vehicle, or in abandoned buildings. MNPS and the Department of Education use a broader definition under the McKinney-Vento Act. As an outreach organization, we are on the streets day in and day out. We see new faces on the streets every week and know the names and stories of the people living without stable housing in Nashville who aren’t included in the count. We know the disabled couple who is couch surfing because they were evicted when a developer flipped their apartment. We know the mother and children living in a $250-a-week bug-infested motel while they wait on subsidized housing. We know the man who is in the ICU for a traumatic brain injury. We know the man who is in jail because he was arrested for trespassing for sleeping on private property. None of these people are included in MDHA’s PIT Count.
While we believe that homelessness will continue to grow in hidden and obvious ways in the Nashville area and beyond until we adequately address our affordable housing crisis, we are also proud of the ways homeless service providers, the Metro Homeless Impact Division, and others are working together to connect struggling individuals and families with housing in one of the tightest housing markets in the country. We are also making notable strides in decreasing homelessness among veterans and youth from ages 18-24 and that is something to be celebrated.