Judith Tackett has moved into role of director at the Metro Homelessness Commission, Nashville’s government arm tasked with addressing homelessness in the city.
Tackett had been serving as interim director of the commission since November when Will Connelly, one of The Contributor’s founders, vacated the position to take on a similar role in Denver.
Tackett says she is motivated to do her work by “the belief that we all have a purpose in life.”
“I am lucky. I have found (my purpose), which is to fight for people who often have become voiceless over time. My goal has always been to listen and listen well,” she said.
The MHC was created in 2005 under then Mayor Bill Purcell, and Tackett first came into contact with the commission while working as a reporter in Nashville writing about homelessness. The MHC formally hired her in 2011 as its communications coordinator, and she later served as assistant director.
As director, Tackett says her long term goals include building what she refers to as an efficient Housing Crisis Resolution System that is focused on preventing homelessness and rapidly rehousing people so homelessness in Nashville is a brief experience.
“My role in this big task is to help identify and bring the right leaders to the table, so that we have solutions-oriented discussions. Our job is to provide planning and coordination,” she said.
Tackett will also continue her focus on developing an improved data collection system that enables the MHC to measure progress and accurately tally the number of people and families experiencing homelessness in Nashville.
“Frankly, right now, I am not satisfied with where we are in terms of data in Nashville. It is a mix and match of old, unreliable data with unclear definitions and wrongful messaging,” Tackett said. “People still believe that ending up with high numbers will result in more resources. Those times are over. However, funders nowadays want to see accurate data and consistence performance measures at the community as well as project levels.”
Nashville’s most commonly referenced data set is the Point In Time (PIT) count, an annual one-night count in January that provides a “snapshot” of sheltered and unsheltered homelessness. HUD requires the count to determine funding and eligibility. The 2017 PIT count showed 2,337 people experiencing homelessness in Nashville.
“Even HUD recognizes the PIT count's limitations,” Tackett said. “The Homelessness Commission staff will continue to support the local PIT count. However, I am strongly lobbying in favor of overhauling the methodology for the next Point In Time Count.
“The data is meant to improve our system. But in the end, for our service provider community here in Nashville, it is always about helping people as quickly as we can with obtaining permanent housing and the services they need to remain in housing long-term.”
While Tackett served as interim director, the MHC was awarded a 20 percent budget increase from Metro, began offering staff support to landlords in an effort to keep people housed, amped up Metro’s focus on ending veteran homelessness and established a partnership with the Metro Transit Authority that resulted in 500 free bus passes for people experiencing or at risk of chronic homelessness in Nashville.
“The full picture is that one person cannot do it. ... If ending homelessness is a community issue, then we must learn to find ways to include the entire community,” Tackett said.
“Most importantly, I am working on being very intentional to give a voice and true input for people with lived experience who have not been listened to enough.”