After being ranked the 10th fastest growing city in the country, Murfreesboro officials have decided to take a look at the city’s growing homeless population.
Michael Sherr, chair of MTSU’s Department of Social Work, along with his graduate assistant Jackie Jones, met with City Council July 13 to address the issue.
At the City Council session, Sherr presented the findings of research done by the Homeless Alliance of Rutherford County, a nonprofit organization aiding those experiencing homelessness and poverty. The results showed that nearly 1,500 students K-12 were homeless in Rutherford County alone.
Currently, Murfreesboro clocks in at 131,947 citizens but is expected to nearly double in size by 2035, extensively raising the number of homeless citizens as well.
The study’s goal is to raise awareness of homelessness issues, specifically the problem in access to programs and organizations that can benefit those who are homeless. Sherr proposed a campus-style building that will serve as a “one stop shop” of sorts where those in need will have all of their resources met in just one area.
“For this to work, the players, the council, the city, the nonprofits all need to be on board so we can get this done,” Sherr said at the meeting.
A facility similar to the one proposed by Sherr has already been implemented in San Antonio, Texas. This building is called Haven for Hope and was created in 2007 to aide the homeless citizens of San Antonio. Founded by Bill Greehey, he began rallying the support of both private and public funds, seeking backing from the former mayor.
Haven for Hope has warehouses filled with dormitories, classrooms, clinics and play spaces for their clients. For the dorms, there’s no limit on how long residents can stay. The facility lets them live on-site until they have the means necessary to live independently.
Similar to Greehey’s facility, the proposed Murfreesboro building, too, will seek both public and private funds, making it that funding for the project will not fall on just one organization’s shoulders. Funding for the facility was an area of interest, with concern that it would be the primary responsibility of taxpayers.
According to Vanderbilt University and the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development, taxpayers currently pay anywhere from $7,800 to $21,000 a year per homeless citizen. The costs include outlets such as jails, nonprofits and hospital stays.
While the initial cost was unmentioned, Sherr stated that in the end it would save both Murfreesboro and Rutherford County substantial money, essentially proposing that the facility would pay for itself in years to come.
The proposed facility would be a safe haven for those in need, providing refuge where assistance would be readily available. In addition to providing the basic necessities, the campus-style setup would also include onsite job training, teaching skills to those that lacked them.
Currently, no resolution has been adopted for this project. The City Council meeting was the first step in presenting the idea and beginning to secure funds. The next step will be to gain approval from Murfreesboro City, nonprofits and other organizations.