In the early morning hours of Thursday, January 3rd, Jimmy Fulmer silently froze to death on the steps of an East Nashville church. A flimsy blanket and a pair of crutches marked his grave. He was only 50 years old.
(Photo courtesy of WSMV Nashville)
Tonight and the next night after that, others are at risk of slowly and silently freezing; of losing their fingers and toes, their dignity and their lives. In Nashville, there are not enough shelter and transitional housing beds for everyone and the city’s Office of Emergency Management has failed to devise a cold weather emergency plan for those leftoutdoors. Getting into affordable housing is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, and while our brothers and sisters slowly waste away on waiting lists, there are over 24,000 vacant units of housing across Davidson County (2010 Census). Yes, over 24,000.
That’s 6 vacant units for every one un-housed person(4,000 in Nashville). Instead of making some of these units available, some of which are actually owned by our government, our city allows people to die from exposure. Instead of coming up with funding for a housing trust fund, our city creates tax credits for a new convention center. We’re here to say enough. Enough prioritizing entertainment over human life. Enough focusing on charity projects when what the people need is justice. Enough with the bureaucratic entities that meet and talk and budget money for salaries, but don’t show results on the ground. Enough dying, enough apathy, enough pain.
The solution is not more shelter beds, coat drives, or even Project Homeless Connects which are helpful, but not enough. The solution is doing what the Nashville Homelessness Commission is tasked with doing: to implement a plan, focused on creating more housing, to end homelessness in our community. We know the Commission’s power is limited, but we also know they’re capable of much more than the last 7 years have shown. We want to hold them accountable, but we also want to stand beside them to amplify their voice in the Mayor’s Office and Metro Council. We must ensure that no more people like Jimmy die because of bureaucratic inaction and public apathy. In the coming months and years, we want to see a city that views housing not as a luxury, but as a human right. We want to see a Homelessness Commission that actually implements a viable plan to create more affordable housing. We want to see more vacant homes, apartments, and buildings put to use to save lives. We want to see more churches, mosques, and temples fling open their doors and allow people to live on their property. Yes, live on their property. Jimmy’s death is a testament to our city’s failure. How many more people will die before we all make housing our top priority? How many more people will die before we raise our voices together and demand a better world? That better world starts with us today!