Nashville’s Mayoral Candidates Homeless For a Night

Howard Gentry on the Urban PlungeI’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of the Nashville Homeless Power Project. I think they are one of the best organization’s for Christian’s in Nashville to be involved in. What I love about it is that it’s an organization that’s run by homeless and formerly homeless it’s those who need help advocating for themselves, and it’s an opportunity for you to come behind and support them.

NHPP encouraged this year’s mayoral candidates to take an Urban Plunge and the story was picked up by many bloggers as well aslocal and national news:

The candidates promised advocates for the homeless that they would spend one night on the streets before the Aug. 2 election. The Nashville Homeless Power Project hopes the experience makes them more sensitive to the hundreds of people in the city with no place to live.

“I was struck by the number of people I saw sleeping in downtown Nashville,” said candidate Karl Dean, the city’s former law director. “There’s no simple answer, but we’ve got to do something.”

The National Coalition for the Homeless has been organizing similar experiences for college students and others for the past 25 years. But the group’s executive director, Michael Stoops, said it was the first time political candidates agreed to take part.

“I think all people who run for office should be in touch with people living in poverty,” Stoops said. “I think it should be a requirement.”

The participants, chaperoned by current and former homeless people, were supposed to find a legal place to stay the night, spend at least 20 minutes sleeping on a park bench and ask strangers for spare change.

Much of that was more than the candidates could handle. Dean and David Briley, a city council member, didn’t panhandle, and all four men wandered the streets until Wednesday morning rather than attempt to find a shelter.

“I never really got a chance to rest,” said Buck Dozier, another council member. He tried sleeping on a slab of concrete.

Homeless people got a chance to ask the candidates questions about the experience Wednesday. The first question caught them a bit off guard: Where did you use the bathroom?

The main reason I wanted to post about this is to say that I think it’s a good idea. When I read about what other bloggers were writing I came across this blogger who thought the idea of an urban plunge was “stupidity from the left.” I think everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I’d have to disagree on this one.
Certainly, something like the Urban Plunge isn’t going to immediately wipe homelessness from the map. Nor, is this event intended to free the homeless from their responsibility for their actions and their role in making a way for themselves. However, I do think this opportunity for the Nashville Mayor’s will help them to see some of the injustices and ways that our city neglects some of it’s citizens. And this was not some liberal propaganda or publicity stunt; It was Nashville citizen’s (specifically homeless citizens and those who support them) gathering together and asking their possible future mayor to take a minute to better understand them and the Nashville that they live in.

Thank you Mayoral Candidates for trying to understand (even if you had wrong motives).

3 thoughts on “Nashville’s Mayoral Candidates Homeless For a Night”

  1. Wow, I am amazed – the things people will do to get elected. Major kudos to whoever at NHPP dreamed this up and pulled it off. Giving people in power even a glimmer of insight into the complexity of homelessness (and poverty) is HUGE. Something tells me that they will remember this.

  2. And…as I said as a comment and the site you link to, even if the mayor’s woke up the next day and snuggled up in their warm beds, people are talking about the issue. People think consciousness raising is a “first step” in approaching a problem. Really its a constant step. If people had stopped raising awareness of the ozone layer when it was first brought up, I wouldn’t have known anything about it. As we get older we forget that the people that came behind us don’t know what we know, and while we know homelessness is an important issue, many people don’t, many young people who may now be inspired to help.

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