Family Homelessness in the “It City”

By Becca Dryden

 

As the Resource Coordinator for Open Table, I talk on the phone often with people trying to navigate the complicated web of social services in Nashville. I talk to folks with all sorts of different experiences and life stories, but lately I’ve been noticing a recurring theme in my work: family homelessness. It seems like every day, I receive a call from another family who has lost their housing because the landlord decided to sell, new management raised the rent, or a vague eviction notice simply provided an “out-by” date. Families who had a home within their budget have been forced out with little opportunity to find a comparable rental property to accommodate both their budgets and the size of their families. In these situations, the only immediate option, the local rescue mission, isn’t even an option for many families. The mission provides a very important service for unhoused folks in our community, but for some families—such as single fathers, families with teenage boys, families with parents who need to be together for emotional or other needs—it isn’t a viable option. In these cases, parents are left without a safe place to take themselves and their children.

Full disclosure, I am a mother of a toddler. This colors my view of the world, and I hope it can be an asset in some situations. A lot of parents joke (though with some truth) about “surviving” parenthood. I certainly have days where survival feels like an accomplishment. For families experiencing unstable housing, displacement, and homelessness, survival takes on a whole new meaning. Survival means not just getting through toddler meltdowns and sleepless nights; it means finding enough to eat, doing whatever it takes to have a safe place for your children to sleep at night, fighting to keep your family together, hoping to avoid illness, and praying that somehow this broken system won’t overlook you and your family.

The reality is that this broken system is overlooking so many families. Our city is growing and flourishing at the expense of families who already live here. They are our neighbors and we, the “It City,” have a responsibility to make sure they aren’t pushed out of their homes. For those who are unhoused, we must ensure there are ample options and resources. Until that happens, my job as the Resource Coordinator for Open Table will continue to be complicated by the lack of actual options to offer to families experiencing homelessness.
I could end on some sort of hopeful note with a story of the resilience and strength of these families, some silver lining so that we can step away without feeling the burden of this reality.  To do so would be a disservice to the seriousness of this issue. When I talk to parents dealing with displacement and trying to find the help to merely scrape by, I can’t help but be outraged. Discomfort and anger seems to me an appropriate response to the reality of family homelessness. I hope we can take that anger and make the necessary changes in our city for the parents and children just trying to survive.

Harvesting Hope Was a Smashing Success!

On Tuesday, October 11, Open Table hosted our annual fall fundraiser Harvesting Hope: A Night to Celebrate Open Table Nashville. The event was everything we dreamed it would be and so much more. Special thanks to our many sponsors, as well as our host location City Winery Nashville. In addition to delicious food and drink, we had a silent auction with items and services donated from local restaurants, artists, legal firms, fitness studios and many of our community partners. Barrett Klausman of Farmdog Productions also debuted the gorgeous film he has been creating for Open Table featuring several of our recently housed friends and their stories.

All in all, early figures show that 200 people attended the event and that Open Table raised $30,000 for the coming year of disrupting cycles of poverty, journeying with the marginalized and providing education about issues of homelessness. Thank you all for your unending support—we are looking forward to meeting our goal of housing 110 friends in 2016!

– The Open Table Nashville Team

Housing as Healthcare: Tony’s Story

By Elizabeth Langgle-Martin

Two years ago, I followed a foot path while doing some daytime outreach and found a lone, small tent and a gentle man named Tony. He was startled to see me, as he apparently had successfully managed to stay hidden and safe in his location, secluded enough to fly under the radar, but close enough to town to be able to do small jobs and scrape by. When he recalls that day, he says God sent me to him. I think it might have been the other way around.

Tony has lived in Nashville his whole life. He knows everyone, has rubbed elbows with countless big names in country music and befriended local business owners. He is friendly and polite and has spent far too many years outside through unforgivingly cold winters and exhaustingly hot summers. He says “yes ma’am” and loves banana pudding. He’s by far one of my favorite people in the world.

As we started to talk about housing options and the Section 8 process and began piecing together his necessary identification documents, I discovered that Tony was in constant pain from an old injury. A simple bicycle wreck had broken his collar bone and dislocated his shoulder. Due to his living situation and lack of insurance, his injuries were never properly addressed. His collarbone peaked out from his shoulder unnaturally and had calcified into an incorrect placement. His arm remained dislocated resulting in constant pain and frequent numbness that effected the use of his hand. He existed like this for years. In addition, a large cyst began to form near his spine, increasing his discomfort. He attempted to get more sustainable work tossing pies at a local pizza haunt but his injury prevented him from the lifting and standing and loading that was required so he resigned to working his small, infrequent jobs. When the woods that hosted his tiny tent were bulldozed he moved into a broken down van that a friendly neighbor allowed him to stay in through yet another frigid winter.

It became evident that the need for housing and the need for healthcare were both essential to Tony’s well being. He and I attended appointments at a free clinic where they ushered us to Meharry to apply for indigent care. We waited the long months until he could be seen for an intake appointment then several more to meet with an orthopedic specialist who conferred with a dermatologist. All the while we filled out Section 8 paperwork over countless cups of coffee, submitted his documents and crossed our fingers. The hospital was eager to schedule his surgery but the back of a broken down van is no place to recover from an extensive operation where even small movements would be excruciating. A group of service providers brainstormed around the table at a chronic care meeting and Tony was eventually matched with an unit through How’s Nashville and the generosity of Freeman and Webb. His voucher finally came and arrangements were made for a September move-in. We eagerly called the hospital and his surgery was scheduled. Tony’s relief was tangible.

Two days before his surgery, Tony received the keys to his new apartment. He and I washed and put away dishes in his new kitchen, he decided on a place for his trash can and I took snapshots of him on his new couch. He told me he was keeping a clean outfit for his upcoming operation.

Two days later I picked him up at 5:00 in the morning with his one clean outfit and helped him check in for his operation. The nurse handed him a hospital gown and I hugged him goodbye.

The next day Tony was discharged to his own apartment where he has been healing ever since. An amazing community of volunteers is showering him with homemade meals and my friend Pete helped set him up a TV so Tony can watch action movies while recovering. The property manager lends him DVDs when he finishes the previous stack. I call frequently to check in and he says “I’m at home,” and for a minute I feel hopeful.

For Tony, housing and health care came hand in hand. Healing from an extensive operation wouldn’t have been an option without housing. When I see Tony’s house keys, I see more than a roof over his head and a donated couch. I see the keys for physical healing from constant pain and the ability for Tony to use his arm again.

Housing. Healing. Hope.

Standing in Solidarity with Homes for All Nashville

By Lauren Plummer

This weekend, Open Table was proud to stand beside Homes for All Nashville at their Cookout and Rally Against Displacement. Homes for All is an alliance of renters, low-income homeowners, campers and organizers dedicated to ending displacement in our community, so on Saturday we gathered with Edgehill residents and others from across the city in the shadow of a massive new condo development at the corner of 12th Ave. S and Argyle. Units there will be starting at $400k in an neighborhood where the median income is around $25,000 per year. With wages stagnant and rent on the rise, and with every new high-end housing development that springs up, it has become increasingly clear to working class and fixed income residents that their homes and neighborhoods are under attack, and soon there will be no place for them in the new Nashville.

But residents are fighting back! People are taking a stand together to fight for their rights and call for just development that allows people to afford and remain in their neighborhoods. Instead of millions of dollars in public subsidies (TIF funds) bolstering luxury development, tax dollars should ensure that all Nashvillians have access to safe and dignified housing in their communities.

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One resident and Nashville native, Shamita Granberry, shared her story at Saturday’s cookout with a powerful message to newcomers and developers about the neighborliness that makes Nashville special and a call to remember our responsibility to one another. She aptly diagnosed the problems we face as a community when she said, “This is an issue of us not treating each other like neighbors. . .We should never forget that neighbors are supposed to take care of each other. . .We should never allow our neighbors to be put out on the street. We should never allow our neighbors to be ignored.”

We couldn’t agree more. Because our life, health, and liberation is bound up together, we stand with tenants, low-income homeowners, camp residents—all our neighbors fighting for a place to call home—and we hope you will do the same! Here are some ways to take action and be in solidarity:

-Homes for All has begun a story-sharing project to lift up the voices of people in our community who have experienced displacement. We encourage you to check out I’ve Been Displaced in 615 on Facebook and listen to their stories.

-Nashville camp residents have been working all summer on sharing this petition that calls for and end to police harassment of people who are homeless, and end to unjust camp evictions, and access to affordable housing. Please click here to sign and share! Our deadline is September 30th. Other action details to follow.

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You’re Invited to Harvesting Hope: A Night to Celebrate…

Open Table Nashville is hosting our annual fall fundraiser and celebration, Harvesting Hope, on October 11, 2016 at City Winery—and you’re invited! Join us for an evening of drinks, snacks, live and silent auctions, and an opportunity to hear about how Open Table Nashville has disrupted cycles of poverty, journeyed with the marginalized and provided education about issues of homeless this year.

Tickets start at $60 with full-table sponsorships available, so visit the Eventbrite page to reserve your tickets today! You can also learn more and RSVP on Facebook.

See you at City Winery on October 11!

-The Open Table Team

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