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VOL. 45 | NO. 34 | Friday, August 20, 2021

Kind souls provide for those with no place to call home

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In spite of all the homes sales being logged in and around in the Greater Nashville area, homelessness remains a major concern for the city. Homeless advocate and Room in the Inn founder Charles Strobel recently noted that homelessness is increasing even as the city flourishes.

The Room in the Inn program has blossomed into the Campus of Human development during its 35 years of existence. Founded in December 1986, the program has more than 200 faith-based congregations with 7,000-plus volunteers who shelter over 1,500 men and women each year Nov. 1-March 31.

The program’s roots date back to 1977 when Strobel provided peanut butter sandwiches to several homeless people gathered in the parking lot of the Holy Name Catholic Church, where he served as pastor. At the time, there were members of the homeless community living along the riverbank, and their camps had been destroyed, leaving them with no place to live.

Knowing the church was nearby, many of the homeless sought refuge in the parking lot. When the pastor noticed them in the parking lot, he brought them into the rectory, fed them and provided shelter. He said he thought to himself “If I do this tonight, I will be doing this for the rest of my life.”

Among his other attributes, young Strobel was a prescient soul. He has assisted in feeding and housing the homeless community for 44 years as the peanut butter sandwich evolved into the Loaves and the Fishes Soup Kitchen in 1983. There, those in need of food could come by for a hot lunch.

After opening a permanent facility in downtown Nashville in 1995, the Campus opened its current 45,000-square-foot facility offering hospitality to all who call the street home. Among the programs offered at the facility is the Guest House, which offers “transitional housing, for those seeking recovery,” Strobel says. The guests receive counseling, education and psychological attention through the program.

A popular addition is the Campus Café, a casual atmosphere that often features local songwriters singing their hits. Among those is award-winning singer/songwriter Don Schlitz, who told Strobel aspiring songwriters should have to play the Campus Café because he described those in attendance as a tough crowd to entertain.

Any discussion with Strobel concerning the plight of the homeless and the fight to secure funding to provide for the group will eventually lead to the United Nations and its passage of Article 25 in 1948. Article 25 contends that states must take action to ensure that all citizens enjoy an adequate standard of living and defines those standards as food, clothing, housing, health care and social services.

Strobel says his work is strategic in transitioning the homeless population from an emergency state to an environment in which they maintain the conditions set forth in Article 25, but that they develop into a third realm.

In that world, they would be afforded access to education, medical attention, psychological care, employment, housing, family and religion. He says they would have the “hope of reversing their fortunes of life and move into a direction that is beneficial to them and the entire community.”

Butch Spyridon, the president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, says “We are concerned about homelessness as both a humanitarian and economic issues. It is a significant issue.”

While the homeless community grows, groups assisting those in need are coming onto the scene. Robb Nash, who worked at the Campus for Human Development attending the medical needs of the Campus guests, has emerged as the executive medical director for a new community of tiny homes located on property provided on the grounds Glencliff United Methodist Church.

Operating under the name of The Village at Glencliff, the community is composed of several new tiny houses, each with a bedroom, bathroom, eating area and den. Strobel says the effort will be successful as a result of Nash’s leadership abilities.

“Robb is a brilliant man, and everyone loves him,” Strobel says.

Bringing people who need respite care into a community where it will be provided is a much-needed asset to the community, Strobel says. Nash, with his medical background, is the right person to lead the effort.

During a recent visit to the Village, Nash discussed a number of saddening statistics concerning the homeless. He said that 28.7 people out of every 10,000 people living in Davidson County experience homelessness. Of those, 33% die from a treatable condition.

One of the most extraordinary facts is that the average life expectancy of a homeless person is 41 years.

With the work of community leaders like Nash and Strobel, along with his successor, Rachel Hester, this will increase.

It is worthy of note that under Hester the Campus for Human Development has made massive strides. She is a treasure.

Richard Courtney is a licensed real estate broker with Fridrich and Clark realty, LLC and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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