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.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Whiskey

By Lauren Plummer, Outreach and Program Coordinator

Friday night at the Barth Vernon UMC Resource Shelter we got to celebrate our dear friend’s 59th birthday.


“Mr. Whiskey,” as we affectionately know him, was recently freed back into the care of his friends and community from the walls of a CCA prison. When I met him a little over three years ago, he was sleeping in a parking lot in Madison, had recently had a few heart attacks and triple bypass surgery. He was drinking a lot to console himself about hard times and all the loved ones he had lost, but he’s always had a tender heart and prides himself in looking out for his friends. We partnered with a SOAR outreach worker who helped him get approved for disability benefits. Somehow, despite his terrible health, he had been previously denied, so when his back payment came, he had enough money to purchase a small mobile home. He finally had his own place after eight years on the streets, and it seemed like a dream come true.

Less than two months later, it all came crashing down. A misdemeanor for public intoxication put him in violation of his probation, and he was sent to a private, for-profit prison for two years. In that time, his home was confiscated by the trailer park, and his health continued to disintegrate. He was released from prison to the streets late this summer, with a failing heart and without a penny to his name. While we are so glad to have him back in our arms, his mischievous storytelling back in our lives, and hilarious voicemails back in our inboxes, he has come back to us weaker and more vulnerable than before.

What kind of society locks a person in a cage and calls it treatment? Takes away someone’s home and community and calls it rehabilitation? Turns him out on the street with nothing and calls it justice served? Mr. Whiskey, and everyone suffering under the weight of systemic poverty, racism, and injustice—of predatory policing, substance abuse, mandatory minimums, for-profit prisons—we see you and will fight alongside you for as long as it takes. May we all surround you with love and the divine power of community. Let this be the year we manifest housing, healing, and hope together, with all of our neighbors.

Happy birthday, friend. There are better days ahead.


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


The Big Payback

The Big Payback is taking place during a 24-hour span between 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 6 and 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 7.

What is it? Think of it as a citywide competition where everyone who participates wins–especially the non-profits. From 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 6 through 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 7, nonprofit organizations within Middle Tennessee have 24 hours to rally communities through phone banking, tweets, Facebook updates and more to raise the most money and receive a $7,500 grand prize [with additional prizes of $2,500 awarded every few hours].

This community-wide online giving day will help Middle Tennessee non-profits raise much-needed dollars and bring awareness to pressing needs in our communities – all with just a few clicks from your computer!

Ready to get started? Click on the image below to donate!







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