The Metro Homeless Commission estimates there are some 4,000 homeless people living in Nashville. While many seek shelter at the Nashville Rescue Mission and other facilities, others choose to sleep on the streets. On nights when temperatures dip below freezing, this can create a life or death situation for a homeless person, especially if the individual is intoxicated or mentally ill.
It is on nights like this, when the Mission’s Cold Patrol hits the streets of Nashville searching for those in need.
“I’m watching the local forecast at least a week out,” says Ed Grimes, Director of Guest Operations for the Nashville Rescue Mission. “When we see predictions for temperatures to drop to 32 degrees or below, Cold Patrol teams are put in motion.”
“Typically, we patrol from 5 PM to 9 PM,” says Grimes. “Most homeless men and women are starting to think about where they are going to bed down for the night, especially if it’s cold. This is decision-making time and it provides us with the best opportunity for reaching out to them and convincing them to come in.”
The Cold Patrol van can transport up to 14 people. While Grimes says he’s never completely filled the van at any given time, the team does continue to make rounds till all the hot spots are covered. However, teams will stay out as long as they continue to find homeless individuals willing to receive the help.
“Normally, if someone wants to stay the night with us, they are required to check in no later that 6:30 PM,” says Grimes. “But once the temperature drops below 37 degrees, we will allow anyone to come in from the cold regardless of the time. So there’s always a place to go if it gets too cold.”