Ingrid McIntyre has a sense of hospitality you don’t often find. This, along with her deep love for community, led her to pursue work with the Appalachia Service Project, which opened her eyes to injustices — namely those within systems affecting those with the least resources available. After the Nashville flood, Ingrid founded Open Table Nashville, an interfaith homeless outreach nonprofit that disrupts cycles of poverty, journeys with the marginalized and provides education about issues of homelessness. She began to — and urged others to — ask why. Why is there not enough food, clothing and permanent affordable housing? Why do we continue to perpetuate a system that relies on handouts? Don’t we want a city whose residents can provide for themselves? Her ability to ask these questions, her understanding of justice and her love of community are at the foundation of her work. Welcome Ingrid McIntyre, our newest FACE of Nashville.
What are some unknown facts about the issue of homelessness in Nashville?
- Homeless advocates estimate that there are over 20,000 people experiencing homelessness in Nashville. Of those 20,000 people, it is estimated that around 8,000 are children.* That means you could fill every seat in Bridgestone Arena with all the men, women and children who are unhoused in Nashville.
- Homelessness in Nashville rose 9.8% from 2015 to 2016, which was the sixth largest leap among major U.S. cities. (Source)
- Study after study has shown that it is less expensive to provide permanent supportive housing to people experiencing homelessness than it is to keep them on this streets due to costs associated with emergency services, shelters, law enforcement and other support services. A Colorado study found that the average unhoused person costs the state $43,000 a year, while housing that person would cost just $17,000. (Source)
- People experiencing homelessness have an average life expectancy as low as 41 years and are three to four times more likely to die prematurely than their housed counterparts. (Source)
- In 2016, 87 people from Nashville’s homeless community died. This means that in 2016, homeless deaths outnumbered homicides. (Source)
*This estimate was compiled by OTN using data and estimates from The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Report on Hunger and Homelessness, Catherine Knowles (supervisor of the Homeless Education Program for Metro Nashville Public Schools), and the Nashville Rescue Mission and Room In The Inn. The 20,000 estimate includes people living in cars, on the streets, in camps, in motels, in hospitals, in shelters and those doubling-up/couch surfing. There is a 10-15% margin of error with this estimate.
How did your time with Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes” impact the mission?
Good question. I was really excited (obviously) because I naively thought that if Anderson Cooper covered our story, we would be flush, and homelessness would be eradicated. LOL. That was four years ago this month. We still have a housing crisis on our hands. It’s worse now than it was then. But in all seriousness, he was amazing. The segment put us on the map and gave us some exposure and credibility that we hadn’t previously had.
What successes have you seen since you began your work?
We’ve been able to move over 700 people in permanent housing. We provided education and training sessions for over 6,000 people in 2017, and I’d like to think because of these sessions that I’ve seen a shift in conversations within the city from a purely mercy/charity stance to more of a systemic change where justice is balanced with mercy. We also like to celebrate small successes every day to keep us going. This is some pretty hard work. It’s super real and super gritty. The best kind. But it can wear you out. I have all the love and respect in the world for our staff who give passionately with great compassion in hard ways every day.
What are your main goals for 2018?
Getting our micro home Village at Glencliff completed. It’s the first project of its kind in Tennessee, and our model is really the first of its kind, period. Because of the newness, I guess, it’s been quite a project to get off the ground. But, we are OFF THE GROUND. Right now we’re waiting for some 40 degree dry days to move a massive amount of dirt to the site. I have learned patience in taking a stab at the construction life. It’s not for the weak (or the impatient).
How is Nashville’s growth impacting homelessness?
- Housing is said to be “affordable” when rent costs no more than 30% of a household’s total income. Households spending over 30% of their income on housing are considered to be “cost burdened.” In Nashville, 44% of all renters are cost-burdened, including more than 70% of low-income renters. (Source)
- In 2000, Nashville had an estimated 2,000-unit surplus of affordable rental housing. By 2015 that surplus had become a deficit of 18,000 units. This means that by 2025, Nashville could need to create as many as 31,000 affordable rental units. (Source) Read this pamphlet for more information.
- A minimum wage worker earning $7.25 an hour would have to work over 140 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to afford a one-bedroom apartment at “fair market rent” in Nashville without being cost-burdened. Advocates say that one of the top reasons that homelessness is rising in Nashville is because of the increasing rents and stagnating wages.
- When the waiting list for Section 8 housing vouchers opened in September 2017, over 15,000 households applied before the list was closed. In 2015, 29% of the Section 8 vouchers issued were not used because the number of landlords accepting Section 8 dropped drastically. (Source)
- Nashville is among the most income-segregated communities in the nation. (Source)
- The redevelopment of the 12South neighborhood serves as a powerful demonstration of gentrification. Between 2000 and 2012, 12South experienced a 269% increase in average housing costs and a 58% decrease in African-American population. (Source)
How can we help those living on the streets, especially during the cold nights of winter?
The biggest help from our community comes from everyday people paying attention to who is around them. If you see someone outside on a night when the weather will be 25 or under, calling Metro for a wellness check is No. 1. Call (615) 862-8600. They can help transport to shelters.
OTN canvasses Davidson County every night the temperatures drop to 25 or below. We go out in teams across the county from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (or later) checking on folks in over 300 encampments, streets and hideaways to make sure they either come in or have the resources to survive the cold. We’re always looking for volunteers, and we have trainings for volunteers who would like to go out with us.
We also need a lot of warm blankets, heavy winter gloves, hand warmers, one-pound propane canisters, heavy winter socks, bus passes and sleeping bags. We have an Amazon Wish List for anyone who’s interested in helping us keep our friends warm and alive in the winter!
If I am approached for money, what should I do?
You do what feels right for you. One of the things I always suggest is acknowledging people as human, looking at them and saying hello. Very rarely are our friends asked how they are or even looked at like a human being. So, I think that’s often better for the human spirit than money. I tend to keep bus passes, water, soft protein bars and clean socks in my car/backpack and offer those instead. We also publish Where To Turn In Nashville, a resource guide of social services. It’s super helpful for anyone looking for resources or for people who want to be able to be a resource for others. Get one!
What is the best piece of advice you received, and who gave it to you?
My sweet dad said “Remember whose you are” every time I left the house. It sticks with me. Keeps me grounded.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
My car. I basically work out of it.
Quiet. A nice balance to chaos without which I doubt I would last very long.
And the dream of equity and justice for all. It keeps my blood boiling and gives me the gumption to live a life I can only pray makes a difference to someone somewhere. My life is transformed every time I have new experiences of resistance, persistence and hope through the lives of the friends I meet.
Thank you to Ingrid McIntyre for answering all of our questions, and a special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s gorgeous photos!
After suffering a massive heart attack at the age of 32, Cody Brummet faced a long road to recovery. We’re thrilled to feature Cody as our newest FACE of TriStar. Click here to read his inspiring story.