Homelessness is most visible in downtown urban settings, where individuals can be seen sleeping in public places and transporting their belongings in the stereotypical shopping cart. In reality, though, homelessness entraps many more people and families than those readily visible in typical urban environments. “Homelessness” implies that an individual or family does not have a permanent housing situation. According to this definition, individuals living in emergency shelters, transitional housing facilities, domestic violence shelters, or those travelling from couch to couch are all suffering from homelessness, just as the individual we see living on the streets.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Homeless Populations Report, there were an estimated 9,528 homeless persons living in the state of Tennessee in 2013. 31% of those persons were in the Middle Tennessee region. Many of the almost 3000 homeless persons in our region also suffer from other debilitating issues: 16% are victims of domestic violence, 30% are considered to be severely mentally ill, and 40% struggle with chronic substance abuse. (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Program, 2013 Homeless Populations and Subpopulations Report).

Although there are many supportive service providers in Middle Tennessee, a large number of these homeless persons and families continue to live completely unsheltered. In 2013, an estimated 850 individuals and 207 households with children went without any form of shelter. (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Program, 2013 Homeless Populations and Subpopulations Report).

Public schools continue to serve children and youth who are considered to be homeless but many parents are afraid to admit their housing status to school officials for fear of losing custody of their children. The McKinney-Vinto Homeless Assistance Act (part of the No Child Left Behind Act) specifically addresses the financial needs of homeless children enrolled in public schools. The U.S. Department of Education reported a total of 10,123 homeless students in Tennessee were granted federal assistance via this program in the 2011-2012 school year. (U.S. Department of Education, Consolidated State Performance Report)

In a survey conducted by the United States Conference of Mayors, Nashville homeless service providers reported that most clients attribute their homelessness to issues with substance abuse, unemployment, and/or the lack of affordable housing. The report also revealed that the total number of homeless families increased by one-fourth and the number of homeless individuals increased by 3% in 2013. City officials expect the number of both homeless families and homeless individuals to increase moderately in 2014, but resources to provide emergency shelter are expected to continue at about the same level. (The United States Conference of Mayors, Hunger and Homelessness Survey, December 2013)


The Contributor in Less than a Minute:



The Contributor Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization in Nashville, Tennessee that prints a weekly newspaper which focuses on issues surrounding homelessness and poverty. The Contributor works to provide homeless and formerly homeless newspaper vendors with a source of income and to create community between the vendors and customers. More than one-third of homeless vendors who were homeless prior to working as a vendor for The Contributor have obtained long-term housing since they entered the training program.

How’s Nashville was launched by the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission in 2013. How's Nashville's mission is to end chronic homelessness in Nashville. The campaign focuses on the most vulnerable and chronically homeless individuals in the community. On June 4, 2013 How’s Nashville launched a 100-day campaign where they set a community goal to house 200 people in 100 days. During this campaign, our community was able to assist 189 people to move into permanent supportive housing. In addition, 40 people had received section 8 housing vouchers.





  • Of homeless adults in Nashville, 12% are physically disabled, 18% are veterans, and 23% are employed. (The United States Conference of Mayors, Hunger and Homelessness Survey, December 2011).
  • In order to accommodate the growing need for beds, emergency housing service providers have had to increase the number of persons that can sleep in a single room. Consistently, clients sleep on overflow cots, in chairs, and in hallways of area shelters.
  • In a 2010 study conducted by The National Center on Family Homelessness, the needed wage to afford a 2-BR apartment in Tennessee was $13.47 per hour.
  • The number of homeless students enrolled in Tennessee public schools increased by 43% from 2007 to 2010 (Education for Children and Youth Program, Data Collection Summary, June 2011).
  • A large number of service providers across Middle Tennessee provide emergency and transitional housing, but their services do not generally include permanent housing options. According to HUD, there are only 267 family units facilitated by Middle Tennessee providers as permanent, supportive housing options (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Program, 2011 Housing Inventory Chart Report).
  • Among homeless adults in Nashville, 57 percent are employed, 35 percent are severely mentally ill, 30 percent are victims of domestic violence, and 15 percent are veterans. (Hunger and Homelessness Survey, December 2013)
  • Nashville city officials estimate that in 2013, 30% of the need for emergency shelter in Nashville was unmet. (Hunger and Homelessness Survey, December 2013)


How you can help:

  • Learn more about homelessness in Nashville by connecting with How’s Nashville, an initiative of the Metro Homelessness Commission to end homelessness in our community. To learn more, visit http://howsnashville.org/.
  • Support the nonprofits in our community that provide services that address the underlying issues often associated with homelessness: substance abuse support, job training, mental health treatment, and health care.
  • Support the development of additional permanent and affordable housing options in Middle Tennessee.
  • Support the nonprofits in our community that assist individuals and families from becoming homeless by providing financial counseling, crisis intervention, rent subsidy, or utilities assistance.
  • Consider giving a financial gift or volunteering your time and services to one of the many providers that serves the homeless in Middle Tennessee.
  • Learn more about the organizations addressing homelessness, housing, and other related issues in Middle Tennessee at GivingMatters.com.
  • Purchase The Contributor to learn about diverse perspectives on homelessness and provide income to homeless and formerly homeless vendors.