Tag Archives: Nashville

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).

A Visual Introduction to Nashville: Sans Houses

I highly recommend everyone who lives in Nashville join the Homeless Power Project’s newsletter and attend their events. I also recommend joining us for Food Not Bombs or just going to downtown and taking an opportunity to meet those who hang out in the park across from the library. However, for those who don’t currently think they have the time, Sans Houses is a beautiful introduction to the Homeless Community of Nashville.

Frenchpress takes pictures and voice records many of the homeless community throughout Nashville. Her work is beautiful, and so I think you should stop reading here and go and meet the Nashville Community, Sans Houses.

Sans Houses

I Do Not Believe In Homicide

Governor Bredesen,

I do not believe that under any circumstances homicide is acceptable.
It has come to my attention that “The death certificate of an executed person lists the cause of death as homicide.” I, as a citizen of Nashville and the state of Tennessee, can not stand silently by and allow homicide to go on, sanctioned by the state, especially in a situation were the person, Philip Workman, is possibly innocent.

I ask that you please grant Clemency to Philip Workman, or at least continue the moratorium until further investigation can be made.

Thank You for your time and wisdom in this decision.

Ariah Fine

Above is the email I sent to Governor Phil Bredesen, something you should take a moment to do yourself.

If you live in the state of Tennessee, I encourage you to take sometime to listen to and read the story and information concerning Philip Workman and the death penalty. TCASK is a great blog to start with.

Below is an 11 minute video concerning Philip Workman, including testimony of his victim’s daughter, a juror, and the perjured eye witness.

Protecting our Children while Caring for Others

This Morning I received an email asking for advice:

Hello!  You and your wife bought some cloth diapers from me through Craig’s List.  I recognized your name when you were hosting at Nashville Is Talking, then found your personal blog.  Small world, right?
I’ve been reading for a couple of weeks now.  You’ve definitely pricked my suburban conscience.  My family’s not image conscious to begin with, and we do all the comfortable “crunchy” practices like driving an old Volvo, wearing only secondhand clothes, breastfeeding, etc.  Yet I’m aware that I’m lacking in the person-to-person expression of Christ’s love.  I hurry my children past the homeless at the downtown library.  My childlike response to help has been squashed by a parental need to protect my children, to teach them wariness with strange men.  I know you feel fearless now, but there’s a vulnerability you feel when you are a mom out alone with small children.
So I’m asking you for advice!  Can you suggest a safe way for a mom and kids to help the homeless we encounter?  Small bags of portable food?
With thanks,
Eager to Help

Dear Eager to Help,

First of all, let me say thanks for the diapers. We are about six months from being ready to use them, but excited as the time approaches.  I’ll also say I’m anything but fearless right now. As I think about raising a child in this world, I definitly feel a desire to protect and yet teach my children to engage in this world, “in it, but not of it.” I’m honored that you felt compelled to ask me for advice, so without further ado, here it is.
Let’s talk about the fear for a minute. I wrote a little while ago about Guestrooms for Jesus, where I said fear and protecting your family was a lame excuse. I meant it was a lame excuse for inaction, not that protecting your family wasn’t an okay thing to do. In other words, don’t feel guilt about your desire to protect your children, I’m sure that is a God given desire in your heart. We are called to “Love our neighbors,” and I can think of no closer neighbor then family. As you’ve begun to realize though, if this is keeping you from loving other neighbors, particularly those Jesus talks specifically about, the poor, hungry and thirsty, then you probably have room to grow. I know I certainly do. So, what are some practical ideas for you to do to help those in need around you? Let’s start with your first idea.

Gift Bags are a great idea. The Homeless Guy (Nashville’s very own blogger, who you should definitly subscribe to), wrote a wonderful post about what he would suggest you put together for Homeless Gift Bags.  I added my two cents about Gift Bags, with an additional note about money (I really break down the money idea here). Stick a bunch of the bags in the car behind the passenger seat and let your kids help and see that the homeless are not to be feared or shunned, but to be joyously acknowledged as part of your community.

The next idea I have is to start educating yourself a little more on the homeless, particularly in Nashville. The Homeless Guy blog is a good place to start. The other group I would Highly recommend is the Nashville Homeless Power Project, probably the coolest group in Nashville right now. If your Wednesday afternoon’s (1pm at the Downtown Presbyterian Church) are free, check out the Living Room, a discussion group among homeless and “homies.” You can also volunteer with them, but at the least Join their Mailing List. Another great group that isn’t working specifically with homeless, but definitly those on the edge is the YW. They are also a great organization and work specifically with women in need. They’d be great for you to volunteer with. Also, I have helped out with a group called Food Not Bombs, who serve potluck meals every Sunday. If you want to come up on a Sunday and hang out and eat a meal with us about 1:30pm at the Veteran’s Memorial, that would also be a good chance to just meet some folks in a safe environment.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter.  I think far too often we create a dichotomy or a tension where it doesn’t need to be. I think you hinted at one that many of us are quite guilt of: parenting/children – interacting with those in need. Our perception is probably more accurately: Safety of Children – Getting near Dangerous Crazies (does that sound a little more honest?).  The truth is I don’t think these things need to be in tension. I think first of all we need to recognize that “safety” needs to not be our first concern. God doesn’t call us to safe living.  I know lot’s of C.S. Lewis fan’s like to quote this passage from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe referring to Aslan, The Lion:

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God calls us to be faithful, just like he did to Abraham (almost sacrificed his son and then took his family on a unknown journey to new land), Daniel (remember the lions den?), Paul (went through all sort’s of trouble to share the good news), and even Jesus (they killed the dude).  Now, we aren’t talking about dangling your kids off balconies or anything like that, but we are talking about being faithful to God’s call to care for those in need, and to do it with your children in tow.
And this is where I think we really get to the important part. Too many kids are being raised in “christian” homes where the Christianity that is being modeled is nothing like what we see in the stories of the Bible, but a safe religious practice, that holds personal protection and well being and satisfaction above all other callings in Scripture (which by the way I don’t really see the former in scripture at all).  So, we have whole generations that grow up assuming there is no conflict between their suburban living and the scripture that they read. The Christianity we see modeled today is not the same as that we see lived out in Scripture. 
I really care about protecting my children. But the protection I’m thinking of is a little different. I’m not too scared of scrapped knees, dirty hands, or the stinky breath of someone we’re talking too. I do want to protect my children from the “patterns of this world” and worldly treasure that moth and rust destroy. I want to protect my children from believing in a Christianity that has sold it’s soul to the materialistic, money-hungry, image driven, and earthly-focused society that we live in.

Protect your children, by all means. Just make sure your protecting them from the right things.


Cotton’s Land: Disgraceful Treatment

Kevin Barbieux, known as TheHomelessGuy, has in the past year done a bit of video documenting in addition to his current blog.

The Video Post below is of Burnell Cotton who “is homeless and lives on the streets. He tells of being pelted with eggs by roving groups of non-homeless people.”

If you liked this post you can watch more of Burnell Cotton, and other Videos Kevin’s posted over at youtube.

You won’t question it, unless you step out of it.

It’s extremely difficult to recognize and acknowledge that what you are doing is wrong. It’s much easier after the fact, or when you are not in the midst of your crime, to reconsider things and give an opportunity to entertain the otherside.
So many arguments are often worthless because we are such stubborn creatures, standing firmly in our opinion refusing to back down. It’s only after the argument when we’ve stepped out of defending our views that we can go back and acknowledge the correct views of our opponent.

Specifically, I’m talking about our lifestyles though. I’ll give some specific but controversial examples. It’s hard to willingly acknowledge the arguments of Walmart’s clothes being made in sweatshops, when we regularly shop there. It’s difficult to agree to the benefits of using less gas, when we have a long commute and drive everywhere. Seeing how good it is to compost or recycle or not eat red meat is tough, when it has never been a regular part of your lifestyle.

This is one of the reasons I’m so excited to be living in the community that we are a part of now. All of us have chosen to step out of our normal lifestyles and come together to live in an intentional way. The way we are living is a bit different then are lifestyles have been in the past. What is exciting is that this will give us a huge opportunity to consider our faith again, and really address how we feel our faith is to be lived out in our lives. And, we are having the opportunity to do it, while not in the midst of a lifestyle that might strongly contradict what we want to acknowledge as part of our faith.

Step away.

I think I’m back (with air conditioning intact)

Our lease in this apartment started on the 15th. Unfortunately, all that was supposed to be done to the apartment, stuff we had agreed upon with the landlord that would be done, was not done on the 15th. I think, since he had let us move in earlier into the two bedroom next door, he felt he didn’t have to stay within that time-line. I’m not sure the reasoning, but on the 15th those things where not done. On Friday, the 18th, we rented a carpet cleaner from the grocery store and cleaned the carpets ourselves. We moved in on Saturday.
Just yesterday an air-conditioning unit was finally put in upstairs (where Mindy and I sleep). There are still holes in the walls that need to be patched (a priority mostly for efficiency of air escaping, not so much aesthetics), and the toilet in the bathroom is still leaking, and there are a couple other things. Eventually they are going to put in washer and dryer hook-ups as well.

Mainly though, our air-conditioning upstairs is working, which means it’s not 90+ degrees. This means I can comfortably work at my desk, unpack my stuff, and what you’ve all been waiting for, sit undistracted and type. I think that means I’m back. Hopefully you can tell by the amount of posts this week.

Reflections on Community, moving, painting and more.

As I write I’m sitting on my futon mattress fold in half with piles of stuff all around me, in a living room of a new apartment. In the bedroom Dawn, Avery and Roman are sleeping, and Bryan is at the coffee shop working. Our community has begun. It really started two weeks ago when we moved Bryan and Dawn and the kiddos from their apartment into my two bedroom apartment (minus Mindy who is chilling in Minnesota with her family).
Thursday night our community grew. Daniel, Josh and Chris all agreed to join our experiment. What does this whole thing truly mean? I couldn’t tell you. There will be nine people attempting to live together, to be intentional about how we live together and to share, challenge, encourage and grow with one another. We never sat down and wrote out a plan for what we are trying to accomplish, we didn’t have any specific discussions (yet) about goals, rules, visions. What we share is a conviction of living out this faith and trying to follow the ways of Jesus. It’s going to be interesting to see what that looks like.
Let me explain briefly the space that we will be living in (pictures to come soon). We will be renting two units of a tripleplex (like a duplex only bigger). In the larger one Bryan and Dawn and the kids will take two connected rooms. Mindy and I will have a section of the upstairs in that same unit. The living room, kitchen and a portion of the upstairs will be common space for all to use. The second unit is a small two bedroom unit where the three guys will share the available rooms. The living room and kitchen in that area will serve as some other function of the house. The goal will be for these two units to be shared freely and not to be disconnected in anyway.
One of my readers here mentioned that they are very interested in what we are doing and hoped that I would be open and honest about the experience. Let me acknowledge that I will make every effort to be open and honest in what I write. However, I will not use that honesty as an excuse to be in any way negative concerning others. If that means at times you do not get the full picture, then so be it. I will certainly share about the difficult experiences and the tensions that arise, but I will not do so at the expense of any community member. I hope I am clear about my intentions and I hope you find what I write about this experiment enjoyable.
I can’t speak for others, but I will share more soon about why I feel that this communal living is an important and worthwhile endeavor.

Sorry I’ve been neglecting you…

I feel bad about not posting more on here. For one there are a million things running through my head, which is usually a good reason for me to post umpteen times. And with my limit on internet time (only 30 minutes a day), you’d think I’d have more time to write off-line and then post things for you. Sorry, that’s not happening.

I guess my mind is just in a whirlwind waiting to settle down with this community and housing thing. I’ll let you know the outcome when I know but I got to stop any play by play which might mean very little posting in the next couple days.