I’m just going to come out with it…..

So much of my life I’ve had to bite my tongue so to speak because it wasn’t proper for the ministers daughter to be saying that. My fathers image was important not only because of the important role he had in the community, it was because I loved and respected him. Yes my tongue was sore back then also. I believe this is why I’ve never really held any weight in those who don’t know me yet assume and judge me unless I call you my friend, then I care. So when I give my opinion below, it is just that, mine.

$50 million in American Rescue Plan money going into Nashville’s Homeless population but, not immediately. No surprise the politics involved, it might start hitting the streets in about 3 months. Hey I get it, accountability and transparency are the code words of today. New law passed making it a crime to camp in public/state parks, a felony. Well here’s my take on it, when these funds are finally working for those who want help great, those who refuse the help and stay in these parks anyways, the law should immediately go into effect and arrests should be made. I hear a lot of “let’s get the language right” before they can disperse said funds, will you be held accountable for those who died while waiting for you? Will criminal charges be sought against you? How arrogant! Start moving and then tweak what needs to be tweaked. There doesn’t seem to be enough urgency in this world today and that’s sad when lives are being lost.

I have to step away from the tables. A loud and aggressive voice has come to the table and his movements just scare the hell out of me. In a room full of people my anxiety makes it feel like the walls are closing in and everyone looks really weird. My flight comes into play and I’ve got to get out of there. Memories of my marriage come flooding back. I can’t continue on.

Life will be changing for residents here at Hadley Park at the beginning of the new fiscal year, January. I applaud the work that Ms. Hardy, property manager, has completed in such a short time since being here. From new 24/7 security to more ample lighting for the grounds. When I got the email I sat and cried tears of joy. I love my apartment but I couldn’t continue to go one living like this. She changed it. I can continue loving it now for as long as allowed. Walking through the wall of hate to enter the building probably will never change but, then their opinion has to matter to me in order for me to care about what they say so….It’s becoming more amusing then anything.

50 Million Dollars

No I didn’t win the lottery or a lawsuit. The winners here are the homeless in Nashville. The Homeless Planning Council and the Mayor John Cooper have spoken as to how it’ll be spent. I was honored to be at the signing by Mayor Cooper after the Homeless Planning Council meeting the day after the marathon Council Meeting approved the Mayors plan to help Nashville’s homeless and get into housing through a housing first approach. Living in an MDHA property, that is affordable housing but, now comes the wrap around services that is desperately needed for successful housing. It’s just not that simple to hand someone the keys and say “There you go” and leave never to be seen again. We need to learn how to live in this diverse living quarters, we need to find out how to get what we need to make it into a home, a home. Lovely words to hear daily.

Does this $50 million dollars means that’s it? We’ve got what we need to end homelessness? NO but, it’s a great beginning that’ll get thousands off the streets and into shelter, temp housing and even permanent housing. It’s hope for the future that no one shall be seen sleeping on the steps of a church or over a grate downtown for heat. This is giving us dignity and self respect. We still will need metro funds to continue the work of ending homelessness in Nashville. Now is when the real work begins and the next steps will define Nashville by the present and not the past.

Other Side of the Coin

Is it really to much to ask to feel safe in the building where you live? To be able to take your dog out without getting shot? To exit the elevator without having to step over a pool of blood? I determined it was blood by the color and the fact that Faith walked around it.

I love my apartment. It’s not to big. It’s not to small. It’s perfect size for the both of us. It feels like home to us except for the occasional yelling and screaming the lesbian couple does about once ever 6 months or the weekend radio blaring over my TV because she alone for several hours. These are all things I can deal with and aren’t worth a huge battle.

I keep thinking back to the first day the new manager was on property, he said that I had to be more aware of my surroundings. Why would anyone say that to a 59 year old woman who uses a walker? Lack of empathy or even compassion is simply unacceptable anymore. However I am seeing the other side of the coin. I am living with the problems of Housing First. I live with the overdoses and parties with questionable characters. The summer gets worse with the homeless sleeping in the stairwells and rotunda’s. This is the bad side of housing first. You hope and pray they will find recovery but, until then you stay cautious.

The Process and Accountability

I don’t like it and there may be some out there that’ll say they thrive on it but, I’m not one that does. The process is long and drawn out. Making sure both parties are getting what they want and the losers’ are those that have to wait so incredibly long. If they make it to the end of the journey, to the end of their homelessness. I grow wary of the process but, I’m also understanding that the process has to happen.

Acceptance of this process will hopefully be the glue that sticks me to that chair, listening, questioning and providing lived experience. Maybe that’s the most important thing is the lived experience. Until you’ve been through it no matter how you went through it, it’s important to be at that table. The person with the lived experience will hold those officials accountable for their actions and lack there of. They are the ones that don’t have a political agenda. They are the free thinkers, not republican or democrat.

It’s been a roller coaster of a ride this past month but, I’ve learned a lot and I learned that I am valuable at the table and needed. While I like that , I like to think that one day they’ll say “She changed lives for the better” and “held everyone accountable but with mercy and grace.”

What happened to the old world?

Pre-Covid I was still working out the cobwebs going from homeless to housing, then Covid hit and I had to rely on other opportunities to be created such as the Homeless Planning Council and it’s various sub-committees which I thought I was helpful with my lived experience but, with that came a paycheck once a month for the hours I’d spend doing various workshops as a person with lived experience. When it didn’t come this month and hearing various excuses such as, on vacation, forgot and another vacation, I’ve been scrambling to come up with another way to make me bills. Of course Faith, my ESA, always comes first but, when it came time to eat, relying on others to do their job, felt to corporate, to many excuses, to many predictable responses for a need that needed to be filled. Frustration over a no action council and the need to eat. sent me back to what gave me peace and joy and that was selling the paper. The people I got to talk to and engage with made all the difference but, still coming home to an empty fridge.

It appears that post Covid has brought a hole new meaning to engagement as I’d say hello to people and they simply walk on by without even a customary “Hello”. A new world seems to have been create while I was inside. A world of where a hello or a smile means nothing when people are talking on the phone and trying hard not to make eye contact. Very few engagements on the streets anymore and this is sad. I had met some of the most interesting people while selling a street paper, where now it’s very few. It could be the new community I’ve entered in or people just to busy for a smile and a hello? I’m looking for my old world back with hand shakes, smiles and hello’s. So the struggle to engage folks walking by will continue until I win them over with a smile and a hello.

Deferring the homeless?

In the dictionary the word deferred means to defer, put off (action or event) to a later time, postpone. I’ve heard that word a lot this past year in various meetings I’ve attended either in person or over zoom but I hear it mostly coming from those who don’t see homelessness as an emergency situation. When does it become an emergency situation? Obviously not when a homeless person dies, there’s been thousands who have died while being homeless so, that’s not it. When does homelessness become an emergency situation? When a local park is taken over by the homeless? Well that does close the park here in Tennessee when the Brooke Meade Wench lobby’s for an encampment to be closed without any solutions offered just “give me my park back” it speaks volumes about what’s really important to citizens, the nimby (Not In My Back Yard), those absent of compassion yet call themselves Christians. Does it have to be declared an emergency before action is taken? What does it take to housed the unhoused, give dignity back to the homeless and create more affordable housing, housing first and yes even using city surplus land for shelters and housing. Every time we defer anything to do with the homeless we’re basically saying we don’t care but, when we just don’t say anything we’re just checking a box.

2 special journals and a Trilogy

One way that I work out problems that I’m facing is to move furniture. Before anyone says get a job as a furniture mover, I have tile floors so I can easily slide furniture. This past week I moved furniture around while working out a problem in my head. While I started moving the bookcases, I had to empty them first. As I carefully went through each book a memory would come back to me about the item. There they were on the top shelf, a spot that’s just for looking but no touching, items that are so special a place just as special needed to display them. A beautiful leather journal 5×7 that has a leather strap neatly folded under a flap to keep it closed, still in the plastic she gave it to me in so many years ago. Her name is Lynn. I just saw her for the first time in a long time and I almost got excited but held back. She still doesn’t get why I severed, sabotaged the friendship. That memory always comes back but, I won’t just tell her, I’ll wait for her to ask.

2nd is another leather journal with the most beautiful tree on the cover, elegantly tooled in. The backing acts as a pen holder that came with it. The friend who bought me this was at a very important time in my life while laying in a hospital bed for 10 days. Her name is Bobbi and she has a radio show that I was one once with Lindsey Krinks. I’m sorry I haven’t written in it yet but, it’s just to special, to perfect like this gift is to me. I placed both journals on a safe part of the table making sure nothing else would touch them.

I went back to the same spot on the shelf when I saw it, The Star Wars Trilogy embedded in a gold color substance gleaming at me with part of the death star below. I couldn’t remember where I got it from but it would always remind me of the bond Paul, my son, and I share, our love for Star Wars. I placed this one on the soft bed away from where Faith would normally try to jump up. After another couple of hours trying to put it all back together again, I took a break and stretched out on the bed. I grabbed the Trilogy that I had placed there before and opened up to the first page and there it was, staring right at me, Lynn again. Written inside 1/30/2017 Dearest Vicky, When life gets to be too much- return to the things that give you joy and peace. I’m proud to be your friend. Always, Lynn. Mystery solved and answer to my problem solved. “Go back to the things that give you joy and peace”.

Wednesday, weather permitting, I’m going back to selling the Contributor. I may not be in Hermitage where I use to sell the paper, probably downtown somewhere but, I’m going back. Since 2020 I’ve been receiving extra money from MDHA for being on certain groups asking for “lived experience”. Well that would be me and 2 other people I had recently met. We would total our hours for the month and were supposed to be paid $15.00 an hour for this. The problem was I was also hearing a rumor that this program was set up to be an entry way for those with lived experience to eventually work for metro. I don’t want that, not a job but the employer. I didn’t want what I wanted to say be influenced by a paycheck, feeling like blood money, sell-out money, working for the other side. Like a prosecutor convicting someone just to find out after they were executed, they were innocent.

I’m keeping my voice and encouraging others to get out there and be heard. Not politically or money motivated but to make a difference, to be the change.

Affordable vs. Available

I wasn’t going to blog today but a very dear friend got me thinking when she said that instead of saying “affordable housing” people will listen more when you say “available housing”.

Affordable in the dictionary states affordable- inexpensive, reasonably priced. The definition of Available- able to be used or obtained at someone’s disposal. The word available in front of housing simply means that there is housing available and this would be true, housing is available in Nashville but, can you afford rents from $1200- $1800 per month for a 1 bedroom. To make this “available housing” affordable you’d have to bring home roughly $4000- $6000 a month. So for those who make this much you’ve got a pretty great job.

Affordable is a word that’s been thrown around a lot in ads & commercials creating excitement thinking anyone can afford it, not true but it gets you to check it out. Mission accomplished.

For the poor, homeless and those living on a fixed income making $4000-$6000 a month and being able to afford a home or an apartment is nearly impossible.

Changing the name of the need may get people to listen more because it’s new but, the same problem still exists, no matter what you call it. Not enough shelter beds, not enough accepting Section 8 vouchers and not enough affordable housing.

Where to go from here

I think most people ask this when trying to figure out how to get something done in the homeless community. We have great ideas and have support for these ideas but, where do we go from there? I’ve had the pleasure of working on the Cold Weather Shelter Task force and the only thing I can say for this very elite group of workers got things done. They didn’t just defer it until the next meeting. Most times decisions made were and completed before the end of the meeting. I call these people the movers and shakers of my community. Now I need to take what I’ve learned from them and figure out how to get things moving in Nashville for the homeless.

Many have talked about using what we have in surplus property owned by the city and convert it into much needed shelters for our unhoused citizens. The big question is how? What are the steps to getting this done? Writing about it and speaking about it seems to be taking so long when a deadline to close these encampments is approaching. The recent legislation is drawing near without a comment from Mayor Cooper as to how it’ll be handled. I’ve heard rumors that he plans to enforce it. We have to be prepared. Plans have to be initiated and moved on quickly. Closing encampments without real solutions is just moving the problem. Without enough shelter beds, in any kind of weather we are making being homeless a criminal act and without enough shelter beds for all the homeless we’re thumbing our nose to our most vulnerable, our poorest and our elderly.

The World is Watching

The world is watching the war in Ukraine unfold graphically on our TV’s, Cellphones and tablets.

The world is watching the homeless loose all their possessions over YouTube, Twitter and Instagram in LA. City workers putting everything in the trash trucks saying “we’re only doing our job”. The city is cleaning up the homelessness out there more then once but, more devastating to watch it on InvisiblePeople.TV. A true and heart wrenching interview with the ones loosing their homes as the city makes way for opening day in the ballpark, the ballpark.

The world is watching Tennessee that just passed a bill, waiting on Governor Lee’s desk, that makes camping on state property a felony. A felony for trying to survive. There aren’t enough shelter beds for the estimated number of homeless in Nashville. The city wants to attract a super bowl so they’ll need a bigger stadium costing billions.

The world is watching the US give billions to Ukraine yet they allow their poorest and homeless to suffer the most.

No one is watching what the homeless have to do while they wait for someone to die in affordable housing so, they can be next on the waitlist. Most see the homeless as beggars, lazy, drunks and addicts. Most homeless have jobs, sometimes two but, rents are so high and show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

No one sees the heart ripping anger I feel that more isn’t being done. A lot more action and a little less talking is what needs to be done. You’ve heard me say it hundreds of times, affordable housing ends homelessness.