Mayor Megan Barry committed to fighting homelessness in Nashville

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress is out, and nationally, the numbers are up.

News 2 wanted to find out how those numbers compare with Nashville’s, so we asked Mayor Megan Barry.

In 2017, 2,337 homeless people were counted in Nashville, which is a slight decrease from 2016, but Mayor Barry believes that could change this year.

“I actually think you’re going to see it go up. Nashville’s growing, and as we grow, we continue to have growth in all parts of our community and that includes people who come to Nashville hoping to find housing and may not,” said Mayor Barry.

Thursday night more than 100 volunteers went out to count Nashville’s homeless.

Mayor Barry said, “We actually have these hot teams that we created with the budget last year that have a pretty good understanding of where folks who are unsheltered are. We do have encampments across Davidson County and we know where those encampments are, so that’s where a lot of that point in time count happens.”

The count should not only provide a better idea of the homeless population in Nashville, but also where those falling on tough times are from, and how old they are since homelessness knows no age, gender or race.

“We see all kinds of folks who are out on the street, young, old. I think that we are actually seeing an increase in younger folks who are being affected by housing and definitely folks who have mental illness and addiction,” Mayor Barry told News 2.

And there are even families facing homelessness.

“We have seen definitely as folks, as housing prices are going up and rent’s going up, that people are either being pushed further out of our county, or struggle to find housing,” said the Mayor.

She believes the way to eliminate homelessness is to create housing.

“We have an Office of Housing in the mayor’s office that’s strategically focused on creating more affordable housing across all of Davidson County. We have 1,900 units right now either in process or in the planning. We just broke ground last week at 12th and Wedgewood for 160 units of affordable housing, so as we continue to try to find creative ways, we need partners in the community to help. We have the Barnes fund, which uses our public dollars to partner with not for profit and profit developers to also build housing,” Mayor Barry said.

She also said we can help the problem by “saying yes.”

“Yes, I want affordable housing in my backyard. We know that mixed-income neighborhoods make us much stronger. It is so much better to live with folks who make different incomes, who might look different than you. That diversity is actually a strength, it plays itself out then in our public school systems, and our neighborhood schools if you have different incomes, and we need to embrace that,” Barry said.

Mayor Barry has several initiatives in place to take care of the people living on our streets, such as incentives for veteran housing, and a cold weather plan to make sure no one’s hurt on our streets when the temperature drops, including those who have pets.

The new numbers for last night’s point-in-time count should be available in a few weeks.

Click here to read the 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.