It’s more than four walls and a roof; it’s a housing solution that aims to prevent people from dying on the streets.
It was during a press conference March 6 that Rev. Ingrid McIntyre, director of nonprofit Open Table Nashville, became emotional when officially announcing a micro home village planned for south Nashville that will house people experiencing homelessness.
OTN advocates for affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness, and conducts street outreach. McIntyre, who had led the organization since 2011, told the crowd that last year 87 people died on the streets in Nashville.
“Those deaths might have been prevented by just finding a bed, a home, a place to rest,” she said.
Dubbed The Village at Glencliff, the project will feature 22 micro homes to be built in collaboration with Glencliff United Methodist Church. The homes – 200 and 400 square feet – will be located on six acres of the church’s property at 2901 Glencliff Road, and will include electricity, running water, a kitchen and a bathroom. Residents will be some of Nashville’s most vulnerable on the streets, according to McIntyre, who explained that the eligibility will identified by OTN using its standard intake form.
Rendering of The Village at Glencliff. (Credit: Centric Architecture and Open Table Nashville)
All but two of the units will be single residencies, as McIntyre explained that individuals without families are often who OTN serves.
A care coordinator will work to help secure permanent housing for residents, and they’ll have access to medical and mental health services.
“We think that not only will this serve our greater Nashville community, but specifically this community where there are a lot of people experiencing homelessness,” she said, adding that in the last year, OTN has housed four people living within 1,000 feet of the church who collectively had been living on the streets for 32 years.
OTN estimates there are 23,000 people in Nashville experiencing homelessness, and McIntyre said that the city is short 40,000 units of affordable housing. She noted that The Village at Glencliff won’t be a fix to the housing shortage; rather, a bridge from the streets into permanent housing. “I don’t want us to use this as a crutch to not move forward and advocating for low-income and affordable housing,” she said.
Metro Vice Mayor David Briley also became emotional at the press conference when voicing his support of the micro home village. He touted Mayor Megan Barry’s work in increasing affordable housing funding, but said, “in the meantime, this is what we can do.”
Metro Zoning Administrator William Herbert IV approved the church’s use of the land for code-compliant micro homes Feb. 17, citing the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Tennessee Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Sandra Griggs, pastor of GUMC, describes her congregation as having a heart for its community, as many had already been caring for people experiencing homelessness. She was first presented with the idea for the The Village at Glencliff in September, then took the proposal to her ministry team, who decided it would be up to the church to decide by a vote if the project would move forward.
“I didn’t want (the congregation) to feel any pressure whatsoever. It is their church and I’m the one who has been given the privilege to serve with them,” Griggs said. The church vote resulted in 21 yes, 4 no – which Griggs said came as a surprise to her.
“I was aware of people who wouldn’t want it too close to their house. I understand both sides of it,” she said, adding that upon hearing it had passed, she immediately “felt hopeful.”
Since the idea for the project went public last year, debates about safety and project costs have played out on Facebook and in community meetings, including one held March 5.
Carolyn Lewis, who has attended GUMC since 1960, has attended multiple community meetings. As head of the church’s outreach team, she feels compassionate about helping the homeless, but has “mixed emotions” about the project bringing dozens off the streets and onto the church’s property – a place she calls her “second home.”
“Naturally, I have questions. It’s so near and I’m afraid about the security part,” she said. “I pray that it works out.”
OTN has said it will release its plan for security long before the completion of the project.
Others concerned about the development have joined a Facebook group, “Neighbors Concerned With Glencliff Village,” where group members have posted about feeling left out of the planning process and having many unanswered questions about the housing in their backyard. In a statement to The Contributor, group members wrote, “We support efforts to help house our homeless fellow Nashville residents. However, the current state of this process compels us to lend our criticisms and observations as area residents to ensure that all parties are part of the conversation.”
Keegan Osinski, who owns a home around the corner from the planned development, said she feels many of the concerns neighbors have expressed are “unfounded.” She encouraged them “to give (those at The Village at Glencliff) a chance the same way they gave me a chance when I moved into the neighborhood.” She said, “Look at this as gaining new neighbors, as opposed to gaining some type of burden.”
The Village at Glencliff will be built through donations from The Turner Family Foundation, Wamble and Associates, the Tennessee Conference and local congregations of the United Methodist Church, and other faith communities. Centric Architecture is designing The Village at Glencliff. Donations are still being accepted for the project and can be made online at www.opentablenashville.org.
McIntyre said she hopes for construction to begin as soon as possible, and surveying is underway now before construction can begin. Ten homes will be built in the initial phase of the project.
“The Village at Glencliff will be the first in Nashville of what we hope will be many communities that welcome and accept all people,” she said.
There is currently a tiny home village located at Green Street Church of Christ off Rosa Parks Boulevard, where six units offer bridge housing to people experiencing homelessness. The tiny home village opened on the church’s property in 2015, making it the first of its kind in the city.
Top image credit: Centric Architecture and Open Table Nashville.