This Sunday, April 1, Nashville will join with communities and cities  across the United States and Canada for a National Day of Action for the Right to Exist, sponsored by WRAP, the Western Regional Advocacy Program.

At stake is Room In The Inn

Room In The Inn Logo

vs.

Room in the prison

Corrections Corporation of America Logo

While I’ve addressed Nashville’s homeless situation and the CCA and ALEC’s eagerness to turn misery into money, I don’t think I can say it better than Lindsey has done:

Friends and fellow housing advocates,
Just wanted to invite you to an event we’re having next Sunday, April 1st (Palm Sunday) to bring attention to the criminalization of homelessness. All of the details are below. I hope you’ll be able to drop by and I hope you’re well. :) with peace.

“RALLY FOR THE RIGHT TO EXIST”

Do you think it is a crime to be homeless?

Do you think law enforcement should engage in “social profiling?”

Do you think it should be possible for people to be locked away for a year in jail and charged with a $2,500 fine just for sleeping on State property?

If you don’t (or even if you do), you’re invited to a “Rally for the Right to Exist!”

WHAT? Nashville homeless advocates will host a “Rally for the Right to Exist” with food, teach-ins, documentaries, music, and discussions culminating with a mass “sleep-in” to stand (and sleep) in solidarity with our unhoused neighbors and to support the civil and human rights of all, particularly the poor and homeless. This rally and act of civil disobedience is intended to draw attention to Metro Nashville and the State of Tennessee’s onerous anti-homeless laws. The event is part of a larger bi-national day of action with more than a dozen other cities across the United States and Canada participating to raise awareness about the ongoing criminalization of homelessness in our communities.

WHERE? Legislative Plaza, 301 6th Ave. North, Nashville, TN 37243. (In case of rain, check our Facebook page for this event.)

WHEN? Sunday April 1st from 1:30pm until Monday April 2nd at 7:00am. (Come whenever you can!)

Schedule of Events:

1:30 p.m. Free lunch with Food Not Bombs

3:00-4:00         Meditation, talking circles, and Palm Sunday worship with Amos House Community

4:00-5:00         Mobile foot clinic

5:00-6:00         Pot-luck dinner with music (bring food is you can!)

6:00-6:30         Welcome and introductions

6:30-7:30         Teach-ins including “Know Your Rights” and “Criminalization in Nashville”

7:30-9:30         Screening of a documentary

9:30-Sunrise   Sleep-in on the Plaza

WHO? Everyone! Students, teachers, families, unhoused friends, advocates, activists, legislators, service providers, the faith community, the non-faith community, and everyone in-between!

WHY? On March 2nd, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 2638/SB 2505 into law, making camping, sleeping and cooking on state property a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by almost a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. In addition, “quality of life” ordinances enforced by Metro Nashville Police officers have disproportionately targeted members of the homeless community for carrying out non-criminal acts in public spaces, especially since 2007. Laws that prohibit sleeping on public property and staying too long in public passageways may make our cities more “attractive,” but the downside of these “quality of life” laws is that they criminalize the very existence of people with nowhere to go. Furthermore, these arrests and citations make it more difficult to get a job and housing and further perpetuate the cycle of poverty with court fees and jail costs. On any given night, there are not enough shelter beds or affordable housing units to accommodate everyone in need. Hundreds of men, women, and children have no place to go save the streets and public spaces, yet these laws further victimize them for doing so. Furthermore, in Davidson County alone, vacant housing units (24,479 in 2010) vastly outnumber the people who lack affordable housing (approximately 4,000)

Nashville Stats (Summary Report of Committee on Police/Homeless Issues to the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission, February 7, 2011):

-          From 2004 through 2009, the number of physical arrests by police for obstructing a passageway increased by approximately 500% (from 102 in 2004 to 520 in 2009).

-          From 2004 through 2009, the number of physical arrests by police for public intoxication more than doubled (from 2029 in 2004 to 5,031 in 2009) DESPITE the existence of Room in the Inn’s “The Guest House” which exists to provide a less expensive, more holistic alternative to jail for those who struggle with addiction issues.

-          As physical arrests of homeless individuals for “quality of life” offenses were increasing between 2004 and 2009, the number of state citations issued during that same period of time drastically reduced.

To learn more about this day of action and to see other participating cities and a list of endorsements, visit www.WRAPhome.com – the website for the Western Regional Advocacy Project.

Occupy Nashville has more here.

In case you you need a little proselytizing to get you in the mood to go, here’s Reverend Al’s “Take Me to the (Cumberland) River.”