At the beginning of the year, Rev. Jay Voorhees blogged about his discussions with various leaders of the Music City Center project about what will happen to the entities that provide services for homeless people, which suddenly sit on real estate prime for development. He wrote:
Of course, as I expected, no leaders of the MCC project were willing to address the question at the time. In at least two public forums where I asked about the future of the homeless in the area, they side-stepped the question, changed the subject, and at best made some sort of mumbling about how the project would raise property values and spur area development. They knew, as I knew, that the presence of the homeless were a problem for their showcase, but as was typical for the circumstances they refused to address the long-term consequences of their project.
And then he made a prediction: "I will not be surprised when efforts are made to move the Rescue Mission, and then the Campus for Human Development, to other locations away from the city core."
It probably didn't take a divine revelation to lead him to this conclusion. On page 53 of the SoBro Master Plan, which is posted at the Music City Center website, it reads, "The most talked about issue is that the combination of the Rescue Mission and Room at the Inn create an uncomfortable concentration of homeless men on the streets. Many people believe that the neighborhood has no chance for success unless the Rescue Mission moves."
I have mixed feelings about Nashville's relationship with its homeless citizens. It's obvious from the number of people I've seen waiting to get into the library who have clearly been outside all night — or that I've seen sleeping in hidden corners of TPAC — that many feel the Rescue Mission isn't a good option. That's something we, as a community, should acknowledge and address.
It's harsh and just untrue to say the neighborhood is unsuccessful right now, even with the large homeless presence. But that's probably all beside the point. As Rev. Voorhees points out, it's inevitable that these services will move. We saw evidence of that on Thursday, tucked away in an article in the City Paper on First Baptist potentially selling land for a hotel and netting $11 million:
The land to be sold currently houses The Next Door, a “residential and treatment center for women” and The Christian Women's Job Corps. The church also announced that The Next Door will be moving to a new location at 402 22nd Avenue North.
So there goes one chunk of the "problem." But I think this also illustrates what makes homeless advocates nervous about the whole situation. Tony Giarratana gets a new project. The Music City Center gets a new hotel. The Baptists get $11 million. And The Next Door? It gets to try to raise a tremendous amount of money to fund the move and the construction of new facilities: "The Next Door is embarking on a capital campaign to allow for construction of a new facility and increased program costs associated with the ability to serve more women."
All that money at stake, all those convention business to build, with The Next Door willing to step aside so that everyone with more money is happy — and they're still stuck having to raise money to build a new building? When we drive the homeless and the people who serve them out of downtown, it won't be because they never should have been there in the first place. It will be because they're doing us a favor. It'd be nice to see some indication that the people who are getting their dreams fulfilled remember that.