Metro Overflow Shelters
Nashville is a Southern city, but as residents know all too well, winter weather can be frigid, with temperatures dropping to the teens at night, well below freezing. For the homeless population of Nashville — more than 2,000 people as of 2017 — these temperatures present a real health danger.
The county's shelters can quickly fill up, leaving no space for additional people without a residence. And, while many organizations, such as area churches and missions, open their facilities as warming shelters during extreme cold, restrictive policies, such as splitting up couples or not allowing pets, can make these options unappealing or unacceptable.
Beginning in 2016, Metro Social Services (MSS) opened Metro Overflow Shelters (MOS) during extreme weather conditions. These shelters offer people without a residence a warm, clean place to rest, without significant barriers or regulations.
"Metro Overflow Shelters provide a safe place and welcoming environment for our homeless neighbors. Metro Social Services continuously strives to improve our services to the homeless, year after year.”Director Renee Pratt, Metro Social Services
Why MSS Is Involved
Nashville's Metro Social Services (MSS) exists to provide services to Davidson County residents in need. The mission of MSS is to empower Davidson County residents to achieve economic stability and social well-being.
During times of crisis, MSS can provide resources, information, and assistance. And, MSS is the primary and lead Metro agency responsible for homeless services. To MSS, providing shelter for anyone in need is essential.
Why It Matters
Without designated shelters, Metro's homeless population seek shelter in tents or ride public transportation throughout the night for warmth. And, although the city does have shelters in place, they can fill up quickly. For some people and families, the shelters may not be an option: Many do not allow pets, for instance. Some do not allow families to stay together. Operating hours and check-in times can also be an impediment.
Metro Overflow Shelters abide by the motto, "No one will be turned away." The goal of these shelters is to provide shelter to the homeless during extreme cold weather and reduce common barriers that can make staying on the streets seem preferable to individuals experiencing homelessness.
During the three-month period of December 2017-February 2018, Metro Social Services provided shelter to approximately 2,200 homeless clients and their pets.
How Metro Overflow Shelters Work
There are several Metro Overflow Shelters available. Metro Parks and the Fairground partner with MSS by providing facilities. Each facility is staffed by MSS social workers and as-needed staff (PRN, or pro re nata). Shelters have Sheriff's officers on hand. Transportation to the shelters is provided by the Metro Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management, as well as other outreach organizations.
Customers of the Metro Overflow Shelters get:
- A safe, warm space, with cots and a sanitized blanket
- Bathroom facilities, with personal hygiene items (soap, toothbrushes, combs, etc.) and washing areas
- Cold weather supplies
- Breakfast and dinner
- Accommodation for pets
- Orientation to Metro Social Services and its many programs and services
Getting Respite from the Cold
Goals for Winter 2018-2019
Metro Overflow Shelters are not intended to replace existing shelters in Nashville. Instead, these shelters are aimed at people who cannot travel to other shelters, have pets, or are a couple or family that doesn't want to be split up. Next winter, Metro Overflow Shelters will continue to live up to its motto: “No one will be turned away.”