Officials with CSX have forced a homeless encampment in East Nashville to pack up and move further down the road before bulldozers level the camp.
The camp, located near the TA Truck Stop off James Robertson Parkway, has been on private property for nearly 10 years.
“Metro says they want to help people, but they just keep moving people out,” Darrin, a resident of the encampment, said.
On Aug. 14, Open Table Nashville, the Metro Homelessness Commission and other volunteers helped Darrin and residents move. The campers and volunteers packed up what they could – including tents, tarps, clothes, cleaning supplies and food – and carried it about half a mile onto state property under the James Robertson exit off Ellington Parkway.
CSX granted an extension to residents of the encampment; the rail company maintained that it was “too dangerous” for the campers to remain near the tracks as bulldozing was planned for Aug. 15.
Half a dozen unoccupied tents remained by the end of Aug. 14.
In early June, Metro Nashville Police Department Sgt. Michael Fisher sent an email to outreach workers and the MHC that stated, “In the end, due to the rapid development in the East Nashville area it is simply impossible for an encampment to spring up along Ellington that is not going to quickly attract attention. Please do not allow any of the outreach services assist this population to relocate anywhere along the Ellington Pkwy corridor.”
Fisher added that his email was an attempt to keep anyone who might attempt to move to them out of trouble.
Lindsey Krinks, with OTN, said that the displacement of homeless encampments is happening all over the city, and the shortage of affordable housing needs to be a priority before forcing encampments to close.
“Residents moved from private land to state land,” Krinks said. “They know the law says their existence on this property is still technically illegal, but where else are they going to go?
"The people at this camp are no different than any of us. They’ve just fallen on hard times and are doing their best to make it in a city where the rent is sky-rocketing but the wages are stagnant."
She added, “Arresting people is not the solution. Tearing people from their homes and bulldozing the land is not the solution. Nashville can’t address homelessness unless we create accessible affordable housing for all our neighbors.”
According to Krinks, those residing in the encampment are all on waiting lists for housing. In the past month, outreach workers have been able to get a few campers into permanent housing.
Multiple campers stressed that at this time they do not feel comfortable utilizing the city’s mission due to security concerns and bed bugs.
“We believe that all people have the right to a safe place to live, a right to exist,” Krinks said. “We’ll keep standing beside these residents until our city has enough affordable, accessible housing for all our neighbors.”