Landlords Take ‘Leap Of Faith’ To House 189 Of Nashville’s Homeless

Michele Bratcher is one of the 189 people housed since June 1. She says she's been homeless off and on several times, struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine and prescription pain medicine. Bratcher now lives in an apartment in Madison. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Michele Bratcher is one of the 189 people housed since June 1. She says she’s been homeless off and on several times, struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine and prescription pain medicine. Bratcher now lives in an apartment in Madison. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Nashville’s chronically homeless have been getting off the streets at an unheard-of pace, largely thanks landlords willing to take a risk. Nearly 200 people have been put up in apartments and duplexes since the start of June.

Many of Nashville’s largest property managers and apartment complex owners agreed to deeply discount their rates. Tenants are charged a minimum of $50 a month and a maximum of 30 percent of their income, often Social Security payments. But the holdup isn’t lower rental fees.

“You wonder, well are they going to behave in a way that’s going to alienate, or scare or hurt my other residents?” asks Kirby Davis of First Management Services, which has 2,500 units around Nashville. “You’ve just got to take the leap of faith on that.”

Davis sees it as a moral and religious duty to set aside space for the homeless. He helped convince other companies to do the same.

In this recent push, led by the Metro Homelessness Commission, most of the 189 people housed would not qualify under a typical lease, even if they had the money. They have no credit. Many have been to prison.

“I’m a convicted felon,” says Michele Bratcher, a recovering crack addict. “Most places won’t even take you. And I’m not trying to go back. Been doing better. Just trying to keep my head above water, and it’s working.”

After sleeping under bridges and behind bushes for the last year, Bratcher is now in an apartment in Madison.

Homeless advocates admit some participants will likely be evicted in time. But with help from social workers, they expect more than three-quarters to be successful.

The program titled “How’s Nashville” represents a big test for a recovery model called “housing first” in which underlying issues like drug addiction are dealt with after a permanent home is secured.

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