In 1999, I met a street entrepreneur by the name of Earnest Riggs who sold pencils. He was homeless. One of my best friends, a Metro Police Sargent, befriended Earnest and linked him with social services and healthcare. Earnest was dying.
“It is not right that people should die alone on the streets of Nashville.”
Thus, we held a fundraiser and leased an apartment for Earnest. Earnest passed away in the spring of 2000. That fall I got a job as a reporter at a start-up newspaper called The City Paper, and I began writing one story a month about homelessness. That’s when I learned about Nashville Rescue Mission and its services, and I have watched it grow its programs ever since.
Now, 18 years later, I serve as the director of the Metro Homeless Impact Division. I’m responsible for bringing community partners together to build an effective Housing Crisis Resolution System to prevent and end homelessness in Nashville.
Ending homelessness does not mean that people will not lose their housing. What it means is that we have a system in place where people have immediate access to a safe shelter bed and are quickly assisted with access to permanent housing with the right level of support (depending on their personal needs) to maintain their housing. Effectively ending homelessness means that we, as a community, assist people back to permanent housing as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 days or less.
In an efficient Housing Crisis Resolution System, we will identify people who experience a housing crisis quickly, and through a common community assessment, help link them with the right services to access stable housing. Such a system will only work with an immediate access point for people who seek help.
In my mind, Nashville Rescue Mission serves as one of the main access points to help people who have lost their housing in our city.
Shelter is where most people will be able to take a deep breath and evaluate their situation. It is imperative that we partner with Nashville Rescue Mission and support the services the Mission provides to help people move into permanent housing as quickly as possible while being able to address their underlying issues that may have led to their state of homelessness.
Nashville Rescue Mission has become a place of hope for many people—a new beginning that focuses on the well being of a person. Building a systems approach that works for every person experiencing a housing crisis takes many partners who hold each other accountable. The leadership of the Mission understands that and understands its role in that system: the beginning of the journey back to permanent housing. Thank you, Nashville Rescue Mission, and thank you to all your supporters!