One sight you only used to see when you traveled to cities bigger than ours is becoming fairly common as you go about life right here in McMinnville.
It isn’t a skyscraper, a museum, a concert hall, or a stadium.
It’s a homeless person.
“At this moment, I know of approximately 15-20 homeless people in McMinnville, but there are many more that we do not know of, or that do not know of us,” said Sheila Fann.
Fann and Tina Higgins are co-directors of HOME, the homeless effort of McMinnville. HOME was established Dec. 31, 2019 in an effort to aid the growing homeless population of Warren County.
HOME provides basic necessities for the homeless such as food, water, toiletries, sleeping bags, and tents.
There isn’t a specific age group that experiences homelessness. Fann and Higgins estimate they have provided aid to homeless people from ages 19-65.
Men seem to be more at risk of becoming homeless. Locally, Fann estimates that homeless men outnumber homeless women 3-to-1.
Homelessness has been on the rise in Middle Tennessee for many years. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Report on Housing and Homelessness in 2016, the rate of homeless in Nashville rose 9.8 percent from 2015 to 2016, which was the sixth largest leap among major U.S. cities.
Last January, over 2,000 people in Nashville were reported homeless.
The Nashville Rescue Mission has compiled a list of contributing factors leading to homelessness:
Job Loss – A job loss leads to loss of income which can lead to homelessness.
Substance Abuse – Addiction to drugs and alcohol is very high among the homeless.
Jail or Incarceration – Many people released from jails or prisons don’t have family or friends who can, or will, provide them shelter.
Illness/ Physical Disabilities – For people walking a financial tightrope, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness.
Mental Illness – Around 20-25% of single adult people experiencing homelessness suffer from some form of severe and persistent mental illness.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/ Severe Depression/ Tragedy – A person experiencing any of these may find themselves unable to function and care for themselves.
Domestic Violence – Battered women who live in poverty are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness.
Fann echoes the findings of the Nashville Rescue Mission when citing contributing factors leading to homelessness in Warren County.
“Someone who has been released from jail doesn’t always have a family who wants them back,” Fann explained. “They have no job and nowhere to turn, really.”
“Some people find themselves homeless due to job loss. Sometimes it’s drug addiction,” she continued. “Health issues, both mental and physical, are common among the homeless.”
It’s troubling enough to think of adult individuals experiencing homelessness, but families with children are enduring it as well.
“We’ve become aware of two women in the last 24 hours,” Fann said Friday. “One with three children and the other with five. One of the women has probably lived on the brink of homelessness for years and possibly experienced it before. The other has been homeless for a year or so and living in shelters with her children.”
HOME tries to point those they help to resources that can assist with funds to find a permanent residence.
“A huge hurdle is lack of available low-income housing. The waiting list at the housing authority can take months or longer,” said Fann.
Donations for HOME can be mailed to 561 Old Rock Island Road, Rock Island, TN 38581.