Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tent City Update

Tent City used to be a well-guarded secret among Nashville's homeless community where tents and carefully constructed shacks became homes and discarded couches and scraps became furnishings. The population remained under 25 until the summer of 2007 when the "Please Help, Don't Give" campaign was launched downtown and the homeless were forced to seek refuge away from the businesses and rising condos. Tent City's population soon exploded and Inner City Ministries (whose parking lot backs up to Tent City) started to notice the increase and contacted Public Works to see if they could help. Shortly after, there was an incident in Tent City where the police were notified which immediately prompted concern. Within days (and without warning), notices of eviction were posted all over the camp. The original "date of eviction" was set for Sept. 22 and stated that anything standing would be bulldozed, and anyone trespassing would be prosecuted. After various meetings (private and public), it was decided that Tent City would be allowed to stay open until Nov.1 (the start date for Room in the Inn), but that decision is now in limbo.

To complicate matters, there are contradicting stories as to who actually owns the property, and allegations that the camp is a "public safety and health hazard" (which is not a valid argument after the recent efforts to clean-up the camp and the additions of dumpsters and porta-potties). So much more could be said about Tent City's colorful residents, many who have called the camp home for over 5 years, but you can hear their stories from them.

There are 3 main directions that Tent City could go. (1) It could be left alone, allowed to exist organically as it has for years, (2) it could be turned into a "model encampment" with the additions of bathing/showering facilities, provisions for the winter, etc., or (3) it could be unjustly shut down, in which case we would do whatever we could to stand beside and advocate for the residents there.

What is happening here is that the poorest of the poor are being crucified once again. As far as some city officials are concerned my brothers and sisters at tent city have no voice and they have no power. Those city officials are wrong and they will soon find out that the poor do have a voice, and they will use that voice to speak truth to power and together we will expose the lies of empire. If you care about justice, if you care about mercy, if you care about taking one step closer to realizing the beloved community, then join us on Friday October 24th at 3:00 p.m. in front of the Metro Court House to challenge injustice, to challenge violence against the poor, to challenge the destruction of homes, and to challenge the criminalization of homelessness. Our community doesn't have to be a community of cruelty and death. Another way is possible and if we stand with our brothers and sisters together we can change the current reality. Let us pray for the conversion of the hearts of those in power, but at the same time let us prepare for direct action.

written by Nashville Chapter of
Christian Action Against Apathy (CAAP)

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