Nashville officially launched the Low Barrier Housing Collective on Wednesday as a way to partner service providers with landlords to reduce Nashville’s homeless population.
About 2,000 people are experiencing literal homelessness in Nashville each night, according to Judith Tackett with the Metro Homeless Impact Division. Tackett said this estimate is based on the narrowest definition of homelessness and includes only people in emergency shelters, cars, streets and other places not meant as living spaces.
The CARES Act and American Rescue Plan poured federal funding into Nashville that has been used to provide rapid rehousing vouchers for many of Nashville’s most vulnerable.
This year’s goal was to house 400 people by Dec. 31. That goal was reached by the beginning of July.
Since October, Nashville has permanently housed 1,691 people. The American Rescue Plan provided funds for 198 emergency housing vouchers, and Nashville has provided 18 Section 8 vouchers a month.
“Now the goal is to make sure we actually find housing to utilize these vouchers,” Tackett said.
The LBHC is for landlords who consider modifying their tenant screening criteria to house applicants who may typically be denied due to factors such as poor credit, low income, previous evictions and criminal history.
In return, the LBHC offers many resources to landlords such as covering move-in costs, a mediation hotline and immediate access to a wide applicant pool.
The LBHC also offers up to $1,000 to cover damage not covered by the security deposit and up to $2,000 to cover an early lease termination.
The money for this comes from the Landlord Guarantee Fund. This fund uses federal housing dollars with a donation from the Frist Foundation through United Way of Greater Nashville, according to the LBHC website.
The fund has $205,100, according to Tackett.
The applicant list will come from a variety of service providers across Nashville such as The Contributor, Park Center, Mental Health Cooperative and the Salvation Army.
Kirby Davis, COO of Freeman Webb, a property management company in Nashville, shared how his company helps with housing and encouraged landlords to be a part of the LBHC.
They have been working with Nashville since 2013 on housing initiatives and have discounted rent on 82 units currently. They’ve helped house almost 200 people.
“What does it hurt you to give up concessions on your market rent to help put someone in housing and actually get a payback for making your city better?” Davis said.
In housing people coming from homelessness, Freeman Webb looks at their criminal record on a case-by-case basis.
Davis said later that the less homelessness there is in a city, the stronger the economy will be, meaning that landlords will be able to make more in the future.
At the launch event Wednesday, Alex Smith, who was homeless from 2007 to 2017, shared the story of how getting housing impacted his life. Smith is now on the Homelessness Planning Council.
“Homeless people are the most scared persons you’ll ever meet,” he said.
Smith just signed his fifth year lease for his Section 8 home.
Smith said he was on the streets from ages 18 to 28. He was offered a place to live a few times, but he didn’t take it because he felt that someone else deserved it more.
Finally, the strain was too much, and he realized he needed to get into housing.
“Having that key in my hand validated all 10 years of me being on the streets. It validated that I finally made something of myself because I finally asked for help,” he said. “I was able to be the man that I wanted to be, not the man that I thought I was.”
Smith said a peer support line will launch soon so that people who have been housed can call someone who has been in their situation with any fears or concerns.
About 50 people attended the event. Tackett said about 30% of the people present were landlords.
As of Thursday, 55 unique properties are listed for the LHBC. This includes small private owners to large housing management companies.