Nashville’s chronic homelessness problem rises dramatically, moves up with cost of living

May 14, 2024 | Latest News | 0 comments

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Nashville’s homeless population has drastically risen as the city continues to grow along with the cost of living and housing prices.

The number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in Nashville has increased nearly 77% over the past year, according to Nashville’s Homeless Management Information System. Last month there were 1,525 people in the city experiencing chronic homelessness compared to 863 a year prior. 

“I’ve seen an increase in women and children. I’ve seen an increase in mental health that needs to be addressed,” Heather Young, the founder of a local nonprofit, All for Him Ministries, told WKRN News.

The total number of homelessness rose by 38% from April 2023, up to 3,412 last month, according to city data. To be counted as chronically homeless, an individual must have been homeless for over a year and suffer from a condition such as substance abuse disorder, mental health challenges or a disability. 

From her experience working with the homeless in the city, Young attributed a large part of the rise to the increased cost of living in Nashville.

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“There is not a way for these people to get up and running. They can’t get affordable housing. Sometimes they can’t get the treatment that they need for mental health,” she told WKRN. 

The fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Nashville area increased to $1,442, a nearly $200 rise from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Young said without more affordable housing options, she fears the issue will worsen.

“I guarantee you it’s going to double from where we are now,” Young said. 

Nashville’s homeless problem has grown despite its City Council approving $50 million in American Rescue Plan funding to fight homelessness in 2022. 

India Pungarcher, outreach specialist for Open Table Nashville, told WKRN that some of the new housing the funding is going toward hasn’t been built yet. Still, she said, the city will need more resources to tackle the homelessness issue entirely. 

“If a one-time $50 million investment was going to end homelessness in Nashville, you know, homelessness wouldn’t exist anymore, right?” Pungarcher said. “We need hundreds of millions of dollars in order to, you know, even just make a dent in homelessness here in Nashville.”

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