Homeless News

I used to consider Howard Gentry, Nashville’s current Vice Mayor, as a good candidate for Nashville’s next Mayor – the election isn’t far off. But I’ve been very disappointed in Nashville’s Homelessness Commission, for it’s lack of progress, and Gentry chairs that commission.. So he has lost quite a few points in my book. But just the other night, Gentry, and a few other mayoral candidates took an Urban Plunge. And for the way Gentry bravely “plunged,” I have more respect for the man now. Evidently, during his plunge, Gentry was actually physically thrown out of a bar in the tourist district of Lower Broad, because he appeared homeless. Rumor on the street has it that the bar was “Roberts,” a famous honky tonk near the Grand Ole’ Opry. There is an article about it in today’s Tennessean.com

It reads:
Mayoral rivals spend a night on the streets
Staff Writer
The vice mayor was bounced out of a Broadway bar after asking for a bag of potato chips at 3 a.m.

Two Metro councilmen walked the downtown streets hour after hour, rarely, if ever, sleeping.

And the former city attorney struggled to catch some shut-eye on a bus-stop bench.

Those were some of the experiences of four Nashville mayoral candidates Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, Councilmen David Briley and Buck Dozier, and former Metro Law Director Karl Dean went on an “urban plunge,” seeing Nashville’s downtown homeless community up close and personally for as long as 10 hours.

Candidate Bob Clement said a scheduling conflict prevented him from participating in this week’s event but that he plans to take the “plunge” sometime next month.

The event was organized by the Nashville Homeless Power Project, which has become a very visible group lobbying Metro officials for housing and other services for the city’s homeless population.

Each candidate said he came away with a new outlook on homelessness and what the city can — and, in some cases, can’t — do about it.

Only one panhandles

Gentry, who was kicked out of the Broadway bar, also spent about 15 minutes panhandling. (The other three candidates declined to ask for money, despite organizers’ requests that they do so.) He said he was somewhat successful, collecting about $8.50, which he gave to homeless people.

But he also saw the other side of the transaction.

“I found out that Nashvillians are pretty street-friendly in most regards.

“But what I really learned was how intrusive panhandling can be, even for those who have heart,” said Gentry, chairman of a Metro commission working to end chronic homelessness, “because they’re not walking down the street, waiting to give some money to somebody.”

Each candidate walked around downtown with two guides who are homeless or have been at some point.

In separate groups, they went to a “tent city” occupied by dozens of homeless people in more than 50 tents near the old General Hospital site; asked for a place to sleep at the Nashville Rescue Mission; and requested water or work opportunities at restaurants and watering holes.

Briley got little sleep

Briley, who took a 10-minute catnap on a greenway near the end of the Jefferson Street Bridge, said his eyes were wide open the rest of the time.

“I guess I went into the whole experience thinking I sort of had a pretty good grasp of what we needed to do, and I left it thinking it’s a lot more complicated than I ever thought,” he said.

“There’s a dispute about how to approach moving people from homelessness, and I saw that when I went to the mission.

“At least from the guy we talked to, their philosophy is that the first element is not a house; the first element is some sort of transformational event personally for the homeless person. And I don’t pretend to know which one is right.”

Dozier said he found there aren’t enough adequate facilities for homeless women and heard complaints about the rescue mission from people staying there for the night.

“It reinforced that the answers to homelessness are extremely complicated,” he said.

Dean said he was struck by “just the number of apparently homeless people I saw at 3 a.m. who were asleep in doorways and on park benches and bus benches. You would think most of those folks want to be sleeping in shelters. So maybe there’s something we can do about that.”

Matt Leber, an organizer with the Nashville Homeless Power Project, said the event was exhausting but rewarding.

“I think each candidate had very powerful experiences,” he said.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless


  1. Pingback: Nashville's Mayoral Candidates Homeless For a Night at Trying to follow

  2. I’ll be honest, I think the entire homesless shenanigans with the wannabes is a stupid stunt with no redeeming value? Do I need to raped to sympathize with rape victims? Heck no, everyone recognizes it is a problem and pretending to be homeless for a night won’t give you a better understanding, just better PR.

    Nashville Noise


  3. Pingback: Nashville is Talking » Watching Your Next Mayor Panhandle?

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