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smeagolsfree

Homeless in downtown Nashville

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With all the new residential development going on in downtown Nashville, What do you think can be done about the problem of the homeless? Its been a couple of years since I have been to Memphis, but I suspect they have the same problem there. I know Doorman sees the situation everyday. There is a task force in Nashville that is trying to address the situation, but in the last couple of years, it seems the problem is becoming worse. The projected solution would take millions of dollars and ten years to fix, so says the taskforce looking into the problem. I am interested to see what is going on in Memphis to address the problem. I dont know if any amount of money can fix the problem because many of the people that are homeless in the downtown areas of the country seem to want to be there. There are a lot of con-artist and panhandlers out there and sometomes it seems as if they are on every street corner. When I bring airline crews to downtown Nashville, many times the comment is, "you sure do have a problem with the homeless here". Most of the time, the homeless downtown are harmless, but I have seen several situations where they are intimidating people to give them money or in one case acctually following a women and harassing her. I hate to see Nashville, Memphis, or any other city get a bad reputation because of the homeless issue, but something has to be done.

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Do like other cities and regulate the hours, location, and ability of persons to panhandle. Perhaps make them apply for license to panhandle downtown (that would cut down on it alot), or say you cannot verbally ask for money (ie you can have a sign but thats it), or they can only do it during the day, etc.

There are plenty of state and private social services offered that panhandling should not occur, thus I'm all for finding ways to do away with it.

edit: typos

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I'm curious to see what effect Atlanta's recent ban on panhandling will have. It's now illegal to beg for money in the CBD and 3 strikes equals jail time or fines. Kind of ironic to fine someone who obviously doesn't have the means to pay it...guess they could *earn* it, though. Think something like that would work here?

Side note -- anyone ever read The Homeless Guy blog? (search for it, it'll be the first result) He's in Nashville and offers a unique glimpse into the homeless situation.

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Hey guys,

A little story... the first time we went to Nashville was December of 2002. We had gone to Gatlinburg with friends and rented a Cabin there the week before Christmas. We then had the great idea of spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Nashville. Let me say.. Nashville is ALOT different from South Florida!! Needless to say... on Christmas Day there was NO ONE in downtown..... well, no one except the Homeless... We had left the car by the Frist Museum and started walking down Broadway. At some point my husband decided it was to cold for the kids to be walking around... so he went back to get the car... the other family we were with went to take pictures on the steps of Hume Fogg HS, and I stayed by myself with the 3 kids on the other side of the street. Being curious, I decided to go down a side street to see what was "around the bend".... all of a sudden these 4 homeless men that were walking around the whole time we were there started following me and saying stuff to me... they were probably harmless, but I was pretty scared since there was literally NO ONE there... we didn't even see police cars that day!!! hehehehe now its pretty funny... but I have to be honest and say that I was TERRIFIED!!! Especially since there were 4 of them, and they didn't seem like they were wanting to wish me a Merry Christmas... hehhehehehe

As for the problem... we had a REALLY big homeless problem here in Fort Lauderdale to... But then about 8 years ago they opened this were Cool facility downtown. It looks great, its HUGE... has a gym, classes all sorts of things... and if you are homeless.. you go there.... and then they help to get you redirected... It is against the LAW to panhandle downtown. Another great thing that they did here (which some of the residents HATE but, it doesn't bother me)... is this millionaire down here opened a Shelter out in the Suburbs. To stay there you have to remain clean, both appearance-wise AND drug-wise. He publishes a paper, and they stay at intersections "selling" the paper. All the proceeds go back into the Shelter. Within 9 months you HAVE to be employed... etc... Also, our local newspapers cut down DRAMATICALLY on the boxes... and the "homeless" get T-Shirts from the paper, and come decent, and they allow them to sell the paper and keep a part of the money. So almost anytime you see a "homeless" person here, they are selling newspapers. You do occasionally see the "crazy" homeless... but not alot. It seems like really simple remedies... but it worked SUPER WELL here.... We used to have what they called "Tent City" which were literally tents where they kept the homeless in the downtown area... at one time there 50,000 there!!! Now you rarely see a homeless person... so IT WORKED!!!!!

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I don't have a clue what Nashville can do, or any city for that matter.

It might be inaccurate to characterize a lot of the panhandlers as homeless. I think many are just hustlers.

I believe Memphis has a law that begging requires a permit. I don't know how or if it's enforced, but downtown Memphis is thick with beggars. When I was down there in June, I stayed at a nice hotel across the street from 3 relatively nice grocery/convenience stores--they weren't ghetto stores-- right on Main Street next to Court Square. Of course, the bums congregate there and always asked for money. They spent most of their time lounging on the park benches and chatting with the mounted cops.

I bought a pack of cigarettes to dole out, and some of them would smoke and talk about life while I waited for the streetcar. Just for fun, when I left town, I had about 6 hours left on my streetcar pass, and hustled it to one of the hustlers for a quarter. lol

Some seemed to be selling stuff, like the free Memphis Flyer or certain casino entertainment guides. One guy was selling pints of whiskey of unknown origin.

But none of them were threatening. Most just seemed sad, and it never dampened my enthusiasm for downtown or made my stay bad in the slightest. Downtown Memphis is very security conscious, and any real problems are probably pounced on.

Again, what do you do about the hustlers? Probably not much can be done that I can think of, whether Nashville, Memphis, wherever.

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Memphis does indeed require permits for panhandlers. I never understood this. If I were homeless, the last thing that would be on my mind would be walking into a government building to get a permit to beg. I think it is also taking away from the essence of Beale Street because street vendors are no longer allowed. I have bought some of the best blues cd's down there for Christmas gifts, etc. and now a lot of talent will never be heard from struggling musicians. The commercialization of downtown Memphis has been pretty good though in cutting down the number of homeless people. Most of the ones that I see are along Poplar Ave. near all of the missions.

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Since moving to d'town Nashville this summer I deal with the homeless or street people or whatever daily. There was never an issue until about three weeks ago around 7AM. I was walking with my 5 year old son in front of the Frist and a homeless man became very threatening. He was carrying a large cane and walking about 10 yards behind us when he began to shout at me to stop followed by profanity. When we sped up and crossed streets or changed direction he duplicated the move. My son kept asking me what the guy was saying and if he wanted to hurt us. In the end we caught a light and crossed Broadway before he could follow.

I do not mind saying that it was unsettling to witness that behavior in front of my son. I try to teach him not to be afraid and to look the homeless in the eye and be respectful but I wonder if that is smart advice...all it takes is one unstable person.

Anyway, I am sure 'Poet' or 'Dave' would recognize the man I am talking about because I see him constantly walking up and down Broadway and West End. He is a large heavyset black man with a Grizzly Adams beard and holding the cane like a club.

To conclude the thought I frequently travel to NYC and Chicago and I never encounter homeless persons. Granted I am usually in Manhattan and the Miracle Mile-Lincoln Park areas of the cities but I always thought either they have a much better homeless management system or they must enforce some strict ordinances.

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The Nashville Rescue Mission is downtown and the rules there state is you are drinking or on drugs you cannot spend the night in the shelter or at least I am told that. My church which is close to downtown on Music Row offers a free meal on Sunday afternoon, a warm placeto stay in the winter, and aclothes and food pantry. At least that is something. There is a panhandeling law here but I do not think it is enforced very well. When the police pick one panhandler on one corner, 3 more replace him or her on the next corner. They are at intersections that are at a street light at the top of several exit ramps off of I 40. I know the rescue mission is doing its best, but I wonder if being right downtown makes the matter worse. My heart goes out to a lot of them, but there is a sinister element to the homeless here too. There are some truley needy people out there. At least the City of Nashville did a census and found there were about 3000 homeless on the streets.

One story that happened to me was the same guy hit me up for bus fare and money for food three months in a row using the story that he just got out of jail and needed to get to a church in Franklin. On the third occasion I asked him how many times he was going to use that same stroy. His response was "gotta make my money some how"

It's good to get some feedback. Maybe we can make a difference somehow.

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Earlier this summer at the I-240 entrance ramp at Covington Pike, there was a guy with a long white beard and one leg holding a sign. My son said he was Santa Claus and he had a sign that read "Vietnam Vet, Please Help." Since my son was thrilled to see Santa and it was about 100 degrees, I handed him a one liter coke that I had just bought. His exact words were, "I don't want no damn coke, give me some %!@# money!" He then opened the coke and poured it on my car. That was my last time trying to help. Its a sad situation, but I always get a lot of laughs when I tell people about that. I was so shocked. :o

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Memphis does indeed require permits for panhandlers.  I never understood this.  If I were homeless, the last thing that would be on my mind would be walking into a government building to get a permit to beg.  I think it is also taking away from the essence of Beale Street because street vendors are no longer allowed.  I have bought some of the best blues cd's down there for Christmas gifts, etc. and now a lot of talent will never be heard from struggling musicians.  The commercialization of downtown Memphis has been pretty good though in cutting down the number of homeless people.  Most of the ones that I see are along Poplar Ave. near all of the missions.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Street vendors aren't allowed on Beale?

Man, I think that's crazy.

When I was down there the first week of June, it was so packed at 1 AM, I never noticed that there weren't any vendors. I did get some of those yummy tamales at the Old Daisy Theater, though.

I think actually that the "commercialization" of downtown has hurt that sort of thing--Performa Enterprises runs Beale it seems, and it probably doesn't want competition for its tenants.

You're a blues fan? What stuff do you like? I remember hearing Mississippi Fred McDowell at the old Ellis Auditorium, and going to the Memphis Blues Festival in 1969 at the Shell to hear Bukka White. You know that old white ceramic looking building at Madison and Cleveland across from the old hardware store? Back in the early 70's Furry Lewis used to play there.

I've also seen BB King at Club Paradise on East Georgia Avenue in South Memphis. That was back in 1971 or so. He'd start at midnight and we'd stumble out of the place at dawn.

I imagine you've been to Wild Bill's? How about the Blue Worm, what's that like?

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Street vendors aren't allowed on Beale?

Man, I think that's crazy.

When I was down there the first week of June, it was so packed at 1 AM, I never noticed that there weren't any vendors.

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I'm a semi-fan when it comes to blues.  I don't know names, but I know songs from hearing my Granny jam to 'em.  I'm only 24, so I wouldn't know about any of the places that you're talking about.  I would always go down on Beale and buy up as many tapes and cd's as I could find for my grandparents though.  But I've heard them mention Club Paradise, CeCe's, and the Gayhawk drive-in (I think its a diner or something).  The only place that I've seen street vendors lately is on the very top of Beale by the MLGW headquarters and the Orpheum.  Some of the stuff that I bought, they always told me that you just can't find good old rough and gritty blues like that in record stores.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Oh, man, you're young.

More accurately, I'm old. lol

There used to be a great record store at the northwest corner of Beale and Main called "Home of the Blues". I'd take the bus from East Memphis in the 60's once a month to my dentist in the Exchange Building, and would prowl around down there.

We used to run around Beale Street in Junior High, baiting the bar and pawn shop owners to toss us out--which they always did. :(

But by the time you were 15 or 16, you could always drink in the dives on South Main. :lol:

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How do we fix it? If you don't know by now i'm not going to tell you. Is this really a huge problem? Do we need to divert the attention of our gov. and police because you don't want to condescend to talk to homeless people? As far as assaults downtown, let's just legislate bad people out of existence. That works doesn't it?

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How do we fix it?  If you don't know by now i'm not going to tell you.  Is this really a huge problem?  Do we need to divert the attention of our gov. and police because you don't want to condescend to talk to homeless people?  As far as assaults downtown, let's just legislate bad people out of existence.  That works doesn't it?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Tell us anyway.

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That was meant to be a jab at the bluntness of the original question. I think it's a little callous and insensitive to think of homeless people in those terms. I don't see groups of people as being problematic, except maybe like terrorists. But since the homeless aren't trying to eradicate western society, i'm more prone to want to, you know, help them or something.

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That was meant to be a jab at the bluntness of the original question.  I think it's a little callous and insensitive to think of homeless people in those terms.  I don't see groups of people as being problematic, except maybe like terrorists.  But since the homeless aren't trying to eradicate western society, i'm more prone to want to, you know, help them or something.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

My only reference here was my stay in downtown Memphis, and most of the street people there seemed more on the order of street hustlers rather than homeless.

May be a distinction without a difference. Both are unemployed--generally--and at some low ebb in life.

Although I would say that someone who's homeless is probably more amenable to whatever social services are offered than someone who prefers to make a living by hustling on the street.

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I agree, alot of panhandling in Memphis seems rather organized. I see folks openly work certian streets in very aggressive and organized patterns. Its pretty clear whats going on, but folks hand over money just because they feel intimidated and want the hustler/beggar to go away. I'm not one of those folks, "No you can't ask me a question!!!".

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What really astounds me is the question is a legitamate one and not meant to be callis and cold toward homeless people. All of the sudden this topic has turned political. The reallity of the homeless and the panhandling aspect is not a democratic or a republican issue. This is a people issue and it is great to have open and reasonable conversation on a subject. If someone really knows how to fix the problem, then tell us and don't be so assuming that we all know the answer. Yes this is a big problem, not just in Nashville, but every large city if not every city in the U.S. Please keep this discussion civil and open minded.

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What most people nowdays dont realize is that there was not hardly any homeless problem in America until about 1970. Before this time, in most cities, if you were wandering the streets without visible means of support you were simply arrested. First offenses would not have resulted in much jail time, but repeated convictions resulted in significant prison time. If you were homeless and mentally ill, you were simply committed to a state mental facility like Chattahoochee in FL for treatment. There was none of this homeless people have rights nonsense in that more sane time. Thus there was a powerful incentive for people to work, find a place to live and not harrass people downtown or elsewhere.

But, around 1970, things began to change vis a vis the homeless (and this was also the beginning of the end for many downtowns). First, there was an unholy alliance between Republicans and Democrats which closed down many of the old insane asylums (Republicans didnt want to pay for them and Democrats believed that they intruded on the rights of the mentally ill). Next, the US Supreme Court in Papachristou v. City Of Jacksonville, Florida (see http://search.netscape.com/ns/boomframe.js...526page%253D156 ) held that the anti-vagrancy statutes were unconstitutional. These two actions let loose this tidal wave of bums in our cities and we have still not recovered from it. So, this is entirely a political issue. If you want more of something, have government subsidize it as it does through allowing these "homeless shelters" and allowing the homeless to do as they please. If you want less of something, ban it like we used to. I believe it is time for a return to the sanity of the pre-1970 approach.

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There are several types of homeless:

1.) Bums: Folks who chose the lifestyle, often drug and alcohol dependent.

2.) The Mentally Unstable: People incapable of functioning in society properly, but not taken care and properly treated if they are not deemed a public threat. These folks can also often be alcohol and drug dependent.

3.) Hustlers: Folks who run rackets to get money for various reasons - often can be for drugs or alcohol, basically more organized bums, but probably not homeless.

4.) True Homeless: These are the folks I don't think we really ever see.

I think they are folks who will use social services, but are too proud to do so, and definately aren't going to be begging on the street. These are the folks living in theit cars, crashing with different friends each night, staying in shelters, etc that are just trying to make it until they get back on there feet. I think this is the real homeless population, and its fairly invisible to most folks, and is not what we view the face of homelessness as.

I think groups 1 and 3 need to be policed out of business. Its a tricky subject. Do you incarcerate folks, that seems a little extreme in most cases. Do you force them to other areas, well that doesn't really solve the issues, since it just moves the problem away for someone else to deal with. Not sure how who solve this issue. As much as I hate to say it, city-wide policing barring aggressive panhandling and loitering with the threat of limited incarceration (coupled with drug/alchohol rehab) may be the only viable solution, but could just be a revolving door that wastes funds that could be used better in other ways.

Group 2 is I think the biggest group of what we usually see and associate as homeless. I think you could remove the largest part of the homeless population by increasing mental health funding on all levels to allow for the proper institutionlization, medication, etc of folks who really need said mental health attention. Some of these folks need a proper place to reside due to their mental health issues, others just need proper medication that would allow them to function more properly in society.

Group 4 - Increased funding for social services for housing, food, job placement etc, on the local level with emphasis on getting these folks to accept such services to get them back on their feet.

Those are just some stabs at addressing the issue of how the issue could be addressed. I definately don't think there is a uniformed one-size fits all solution since its not a singular problem, but a group of problems that tends to be grouped as a singular issue.

Edit: Some typos I saw, probably more, but I'm too lazy to look right now. ;)

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Great information and insight from the last couple of post. I, like most people are not informed or educated about the reasons and the results of many past actions on the part of government. This helps me to understand why things are the way they are. I did not realize the history that is involved here. Maybe the first thing is educating the public. Who knows for sure, but that may be a place to start.

Thanks for the post.

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Picture049.jpg

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Sshhh. Okay everybody, quietly, sshhhh. Back to the suburbs. It's one the homeless.

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