Nashville's Homelessness Crisis in the National Spotlight

Embed from Getty ImagesA big report from The Washington Post over the weekend highlights a surge in the number of homeless people dying in America, with factors like addiction, housing costs and extreme weather all contributing to the spike. And the story is largely based in Nashville. 

Based on an overnight census last year, Nashville officials located approximately 2,300 homeless people; local advocates estimate there are 20,000 people in Nashville living on the streets, in cars, camps, motels or in shelters.

“Housing is health care, so a lot of people are dying unnecessarily,” said Ingrid McIntyre, a Methodist pastor and executive director of Open Table Nashville, a nonprofit that documented the deaths of 124 homeless people last year. “Some of it is people getting hit by a car . . . but a lot of it is just chronic health challenges because they have been living on the streets so long.”

Nationwide, neither HUD nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate how many homeless people die each year. But the CDC issued a statement in December noting that with 19 million Americans facing “housing insecurity, and 28 million without health insurance, the risk of homelessness and poor health is a concern for 1 out of 8 Americans.”

Reporter Tim Craig and photographer William DeShazer have produced a harrowing story here that effectively charges us — Nashville and the United States of America — with neglect, a crime committed against the neediest people in our communities who are sleeping under our highways and dying on our park benches. Metro's meager efforts to address homelessness are hard to applaud in light of decisions to

clear encampments to make way for development

Our elected officials are rarely asked — much less, strongly pressed — about what they plan to do about this crisis, even when they're campaigning for a job. That has to change too. 

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