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