Stopping Nashville’s Family Homelessness Crisis

Nov 28, 2023 | Blog

485 families.

As we write, that’s how many families are experiencing homelessness in our community.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, slightly more than 200 families were on the Metro Nashville Coordinated Entry by-name list, the list which is used in our community to ensure all families in need of support receive help as soon as possible. The number of families on the list has more than doubled in just three years.

The rapid growth of names on the list is not because organizations in our community are serving less people. Safe Haven Family Shelter served 320 families in 2022, a 28.7% increase from the 265 families served in 2021 and is on track to serve a record number of families again in 2023.

Even with more families being served, the end of the eviction moratorium, inflation, limited access to childcare and lack of transportation and affordable housing created a perfect storm and dramatic increase in need.

100 Day Challenge is meeting its aims to help homeless families.

From August 28 through December 9, more than 30 local nonprofit organizations and Metro Nashville departments are partnering with Safe Haven and United Way of Greater Nashville’s The Family Collective to hold a 100 Day Challenge to serve 100 families experiencing homelessness in 100 days.


As of Nov. 27, the unofficial count was 105 families.

Jennifer Reason

Chief Operating Officer, Safe Haven Family Shelter


With the 100 Day Challenge, these organizations, along with national nonprofit Community Solutions and the Built for Zero Movement, are all working in close coordination to share best practices, test new ways of working together and find faster solutions for helping families.

After the challenge is over, the organizations involved will use data and best practices uncovered during the effort to implement an ongoing strategy and set a new, faster pace for serving families.

Despite the challenges facing us, our respective organizations and all the groups involved believe family homelessness is solvable.

Our collective vision is a Nashville where family homelessness is rare, brief and nonrecurring, a concept known as “functional zero.” There will likely always be isolated instances of family homelessness in Nashville, but our goal is that when this does happen, our community will be able to respond decisively and quickly so that every family facing homelessness will immediately be connected with resources and housing.

The vision of a Nashville without family homelessness is possible. There is the will, energy and expertise to respond to this crisis, reduce the waiting list and move more quickly towards functional zero. That said, we can’t do it without the help of funders and volunteers. Efforts are underway now to ensure that vital funding remains available past September 2024 so this work can continue.

Together, we will do all in our power to continue this important work and make family homelessness a rare occurrence in our community.

Drew Freeman is CEO of Safe Haven Family Shelter, the premier shelter-to-housing program for families experiencing homelessness in Middle Tennessee.

Rod DeVore is Director of 2-Gen Initiatives at United Way of Greater Nashville, which is focused on advancing the work of The Family Collective and preventing and ending family homelessness across our region.