Drive to End Chronic Homelessness

A person experiencing homelessness pulls a grocery cart filled with items through a public park

Our Challenge

A lack of transportation can prevent people experiencing homelessness in Nashville from finding housing and accessing services. 
Often, people experiencing homelessness rely on outreach workers and case managers to provide rides to important appointments. A 2010 survey released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) listed difficulty accessing transportation as one of the major barriers to accessing mainstream programs and services, along with the lack of a proper address and missing documentation. The Drive to End Chronic Homelessness seeks to help eradicate this barrier by providing 500 free annual MTA bus passes to people 18 years or older experiencing homelessness. An all-day bus pass costs $3.25 and a 7-day pass costs $16.00 in Nashville. To receive an annual bus pas, individuals must actively work with a housing navigator to solve their housing crisis.
The primary goal of the Drive to End Chronic Homelessness is to get people off the streets, and into permanent housing. Other important goals of this initiative are to help people increase self-reliance and gain ease navigating the system, and also improve the coordination abilities and effectiveness of Nashville's agencies working with people experiencing homelessness. 
“Lack of mobility is a serious barrier to services and housing. Drive to End Chronic Homelessness program aims to break down this barrier. By issuing annual bus passes to people who experience long-term homelessness, we are using transportation as an equalizer, helping some of our most vulnerable neighbors in Nashville to access the services they need to secure and sustain housing.”
—Judith Tackett, Director, Metropolitan Homelessness Commission 

Chronic Homelessness, Defined

A diagram comparing those experiencing chronic homelessness with all people experiencing homelessness. 978 out of the 2365 total participants were experiencing chronic homelessness.
978 people are chronically homeless on any given night in Nashville
In 2016, a one-night census tallied 2,365 people experiencing homelessness in Nashville. Of that group, 978 were chronically homeless, which is defined as an individual (or a member of a family) who has a documented disabling condition and has been living in a place not meant for human habitation (such as as cars, emergency shelters, or the streets) for one year or longer or has had four episodes of homelessness during the past three years, which add up to one year or more. The remainder — 1387 people — did not have a home during the night of the census, but did not fit the factors for chronic homelessness. 
“Nashville MTA is proud to be a partner in this pilot program with the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission to provide access to opportunity by way of public transit.”
—Steve Bland, CEO, Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority 
A tent in a homeless encampment

Why It Matters

Empower City Employees

Often, it's city employees — particularly police officers and transportation workers — who most frequently interact with people who are experiencing homelessness, but they don't always know the best way to provide assistance. Supporting training efforts for city employees will better equip them to work comfortably with the population and direct them to services. 

Improve Quality of Life

For people experiencing homelessness, having access to transportation can be a lifeline. And, providing services to people experiencing homelessness is good for all Metro residents, particularly neighborhoods with a high volume of encampments. As a city, all of Metro will benefit when homelessness becomes a rare, brief, and one-time occurrence in the future.

Save Money

Programs that reduce homelessness are ultimately cost effective. Studies from across the U.S. show that providing people experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent supportive housing offers savings for the community. These studies estimate that for some of the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness who are also high utilizers of the health and justice systems, the community could save an average of $20,000 annually by providing permanent supportive housing.
“We recognize how important access to transportation is for those seeking to reach residential and job opportunities. Nashville MTA is able to provide bus passes to members of Nashville’s most vulnerable population as they work through the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission’s Drive to End Chronic Homelessness program. Removing the stress of figuring out how to get to work and other essential services during this transition process is a valuable resource that we are proud to help provide.”
—Amanda Clelland, Public Information Officer, Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority 

Coordinating Between Agencies 

Nashville's Coordinated Entry System (CES) provides the city with the tools it needs to make instances of people experiencing homelessness rare, brief, or non-occurring. That's why the bus pass is contingent on individuals working with housing navigators. These navigators — outreach workers, social workers and case managers at approximately 20 service provider agencies — place people's information in Nashville's Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS), which allows agencies to ensure individuals receive the appropriate support and services.
It creates a central location all relevant agencies can access information and coordinate efforts. 

Who's Involved: 

  • Metropolitan Homelessness Commission
  • Nashville Metropolitan Transit Agency
  • Metro Social Services
  • Metro Police Department 
The following organizations have housing navigators: Catholic Charities * Centerstone * Mental Health Cooperative * Metro Social Services * Nashville CARES * Nashville Downtown Partnership * Nashville Rescue Mission * Neighborhood Health * Oasis Center * Open Table Nashville * Operation Stand Down Tennessee * Park Center * Room In The Inn * Safe Haven Family Shelter * Street Works * The Salvation Army * Vanderbilt * Veterans Affairs
An MTA city bus in Nashville

How It Works

Each year, the Drive to End Chronic Homelessness will provide up to 500 free annual bus passes. These passes are granted only to individuals who work with housing navigators, who are outreach workers, social workers, and case managers who have received community training through the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission.
The navigators will assist people to replace documents (identification cards, birth certificates, etc.), apply for Section 8 vouchers, manage housing search processes, and apply for programs to offset move-in costs. Housing navigators will submit applications for the free annual bus pass, which can be printed at the Metro Homelessness Commission. If individuals stop showing up to meetings with navigators, their passes will be deactivated. 
In addition, the Metro Homelessness Commission and Metro Social Services will support MTA’s train-the-trainer facilitation, which will implement a standard training for Metro employees on how to interact with people who are chronically homeless and suffer from disabling conditions. Finally, outreach staff from the Homelessness Commission will collaborate with MTA and Metro police to engage people gathering along bus routes and bus stations and help connect them with services.

How Will We Measure Success?

Some of the outcomes Drive to End Chronic Homelessness will use to measure progress are: 
  • The number of individuals receiving bus passes
  • The number of individuals placed in permanent housing 
  • An increase in document replacements for people experiencing chronic homelessness
  • A decrease in complaints to Mayor's Office, Metro Police, MTA, and Metro Homelessness commission from MTA passengers 
  • An increase in CES participation and reporting in HMIS by the community's service providers
An elderly man opens the door to an apartment unit

See More PIP Projects

Public Investment Planning is an innovative approach to budgeting, launched in 2016, that challenges Metro departments and agencies to think creatively about how they can collaborate on pilot initiatives to better serve Nashville-Davidson County residents. Learn more at http://www.nashville.gov/Finance/Public-Investment-Plans.aspx.