More shelters opening to house homeless on cold weather nights

Faith-based centers, previously impacted by COVID, are now rejoining the city’s coordinated cold weather sheltering program for the city’s homeless community.

Metro Social Services and Room in the Inn are excited to announce that faith-based groups are returning to the city’s Cold Weather Shelter Plan following the impact of COVID-19.

For years, the city and Room In the Inn relied on (at its peak) more than 200 faith centers to help house the homeless during cold and bitter nights. However, COVID-19 forced places of faith to temporarily close their doors as they moved to virtual practices. This resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of people initially being housed when temperatures dropped below 28 degrees, causing Social Services to identify alternative cold weather support to fill the need.

But today, there is good news. After working with just 60 faith centers last year during the pandemic, faith-based facilities are reopening their doors. Currently 89 places of faith provide overnight shelters November–March on the coldest nights. Additionally, Room In the Inn’s downtown campus and the Nashville Rescue Mission provide cold weather shelter. The city’s Extreme Cold Weather Overflow Shelter, 3230 Brick Church Pike, serves as the backup shelter option once all other facilities reach capacity. Adherence to the CDC’s COVID-19 protocols are followed.

“Our faith-based groups are central to our mission of helping protect the homeless from dangerously cold weather,” said Jay Servais, interim director of the Metro Homeless Impact Division. “It’s difficult to imagine them being left in the cold. We are so thankful to see congregations come back. It’s a relief and step forward in protecting our vulnerable loved ones.”

“The pandemic has been hard on all of us, including our congregations. We felt their absence when they had to close. Knowing we couldn’t house everyone we needed to was painful. Congregations remained engaged, making cold weather supply kits and offering additional support. While we were thankful, we are extremely excited to see them reopening their facilities and supporting the overnight shelter program when it’s needed the most,” said Rachel Hester, executive director of Room in the Inn.

Although 89 centers returning to the program is much needed, Servais and Hester say more are still needed. January is traditionally a month with more frigid temps and an increased need for warm and safe shelter options.

Room in the Inn provides training for faith-based centers interested in signing up. More information can be foundon their website at  <www.roomintheinn.org/winter-shelter>.

 Quick cold weather/homelessness facts:

  • Room in the Inn and the Nashville Rescue Mission provide shelter and support services for houseless persons, including the coldest and extreme weather nights.
  • The overall overnight, extreme cold weather shelter program is a coordinated effort between the city and community partners such as Room In the Inn and the Nashville Rescue Mission.
  • Faith-based centers offer support through the Room In the Inn’s Emergency Winter Shelter program.
  • Metro Nashville Social Services, in conjunction with the Nashville Office of Emergency Management, offer the Extreme Cold Weather Overflow Shelter once Room In the Inn, faith-based centers and the Nashville Rescue Mission are full.
  • Transportation to the shelters expanded this year to the largest in the city’s history, providing private shuttles in remote areas to shelters.
  • 1,748 people experiencing homelessness have been housed in Nashville since January 1, 2021.

More than 24 agencies provide ongoing street outreach services to those experiencing homelessness, providing resources and emergency support.

(Data source: Nashville Davidson County HMIS, prepared by Metro Homeless Impact Division.)

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