Because Being Homeless Is Not Just About Housing

Like it or not, Nashville is a pretty good place to be homeless. There are dozens of organizations who feed, shelter, clothe, and provide services for those facing unstable housing situations. And while homeless services are desperately needed, providing temporary housing cannot be the end of the story. One organization that I have come to greatly appreciate over the last four years is Urban Housing Solutions, who focuses on providing permanent and affordable housing for the homeless.

While being a great housing agency, Urban Housing Solutions also recognizes that homelessness is not just about having a roof over one’s head. There are often many financial, health, and social problems that contribute to homelessness as well. Urban Housing has put together a team of social service coordinators to help residents connect with government and nonprofit resources. What started in the early 1990’s with one property a block from Trevecca, has now grown to 26 different properties all over town. Many have a specialized housing focus: recently homeless, mentally ill, HIV positive, recovering addicts, deaf and hard of hearing, but all provide affordable housing and supportive services.

I began working with Urban Housing Solutions shortly after I began working at Trevecca in 2008. Together with Health Advocate, Traci Patton, we developed a plan to use physician assistant students to help with some of the health needs of the community. In 2008, it was not uncommon for residents to call for an ambulance because of a headache or toothache. Diabetic residents were being found unconscious in the parking lot from uncontrolled blood sugar because of lack of understanding of the disease. Too many residents were dying of preventable diseases, just a block from our campus.

So we started doing weekly workshops and semiannual health fairs with our friends of Mercury Courts, the closest Urban Housing Solutions property. We’ve worked on grants together. We’ve held food drives. We’ve tried to meet material needs for clothing, hygiene, and cleaning supplies. We’ve done life together. One of the great benefits of working with this group of people as they transition from homelessness back into society is the relationships I’ve built with so many of them. They are some of the most real people you’ll ever meet. No pretense. No unnecessary social niceties. Just real.

They are sellers of The Contributor, manual laborers, disabled due to fragile health,  HIV positive, writers, college graduates, grandparents, McDonald’s workers. And I see a glimpse of God Himself in each one of them. 

Though progress has been slow, residents are now making wiser decisions about their health and access to health resources. The ambulance calls have decreased. Health questions are answered on a weekly basis. Residents are connected with a primary care provider who knows them. But one of my greatest joys is that Urban Housing and Trevecca are partnering with the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing to bring a primary care clinic to Urban Housing Solutions, which is slated to open May 1st, 2012 at the Mercury Courts location.

Great work is being done to help people transition out of homelessness in Nashville at Urban Housing Solutions.

Because UHS helps people transition out of homelessness, there is a lot of material need. After all, if you’ve been homeless, you probably need things like sheets, blankets, dishes, etc. in addition to food, clothing, and medicine. Urban Housing Solutions published this list as their “wish list.”

Urban Housing Solutions

Wish List


Household Items for Formerly Homeless Residents:

  • full-size sheets, blankets, and comforters
  • pillows
  • towels and washcloths
  • pots, pans, dinnerware, and silverware
  • laundry baskets
  • hygiene products (soap, shampoo, razors, deodorant, etc.)
  • cleaning products (brooms, bathroom cleaner, toilet brushes, sponges, furniture polish, Windex, new vacuum cleaners)

Donations for Programs and Special Projects:

  • resident shuttle service—annual cost is about $30,000+—this service employs one of our formerly homeless residents as its driver and ensures that our residents are able to make it to medical and social service appointments, grocery stores, and employment.
  • resident education—annual cost varies with funding—we provide on-site classes in everything from healthy cooking to money management to basic computer skills.
  • resident assistance fund—this fund allows our case management staff to help our residents with basic needs—food, household items, medical costs, obtaining government identification, eyeglasses, dental care, bus passes, etc.


  • people to teach resume writing, job search, interviewing, job skills, etc.
  • groups to plant flowers, trim bushes, and improve the general appearance of a property

Want to Help? 

Please Call Brandi Ghergia at 726-2696, ext. 114. 

Donations may be dropped of at our main location:  411 Murfreesboro Pike; Nashville,TN 37210. 

Urban Housing Solutions, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

***This year during Lent, I’m going to highlight organizations and individuals that are giving to this community, and around the world. Most are faith-based, some are not. All are serving the poor. My focus is drawing nearer to the heart of God, by drawing nearer to those He cares for: the poor, the widows, the outcasts, the orphans.


2 thoughts on “Because Being Homeless Is Not Just About Housing

  1. Robin,
    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you doing this. Homelessness has always been something that has been close to my heart. It is invaluable to me that you are providing information on how to help. Besides buying a Contributor whenever possible, I want to do something, and I knew there had to be some way within my own means.

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