Open Table Nashville is committed to relational outreach. We are mindful of the fact that the people we are working with are not numbers in a data sheet or cases to be managed, they are our friends we journey with. We seek to create a community with our friends to develop stability that moves people into permanent housing solutions. OTN never wants to assume what is best for someone. Rather, we seek to stand in solidarity with our community.
This solidarity takes a myriad of shapes. The most notable are being a consistent presence in the homeless community, advocating with the marginalized, and creatively networking available resources. We always seek to center the voices, needs, and agency of our friends in their journey to housing.
Our day-to-day outreach activities start with meeting people where they are—geographically, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually—in order to form trusting relationships. From there, we help folks navigate complex social services systems so they can obtain needed resources like ID/driver’s licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, SNAP benefits, transportation, clothing, camping supplies, mental & physical health care, employment, substance abuse treatment, counseling, and transitional and permanent housing.
We work from our cars, in downtown areas, at camps, inside hospitals, in many of our partner places of worship, or anywhere else we find people struggling with housing insecurity. Meeting people where they are in this work demands full flexibility. Our outreach team takes on multiple roles daily- one day may look like supply distribution to a camp, the next looks like filling out applications for housing. We recognize that experiencing homelessness is not a “one size fits all” context and the care we provide is individualized to each person we are working with.
One of the most critical parts of our outreach program is our winter canvassing. During the winter months, OTN puts extra time, care, and attention on the safety and survival of our friends. For over a decade, OTN has been on the frontlines of winter canvassing. This is an effort to inform and support people sleeping overnight in the streets about the best ways to stay warm and make it to the next morning.
Because we spend so much time in the field and seek to focus our attention on those who fall through the cracks of other services, we aren’t often able to take many referrals for housing navigation from other agencies. However, we are always happy to brainstorm options and resources at our Resource Line.