The county’s first group home to help the homeless will not open this month as scheduled.
The house, made possible through grants and donations obtained by the Williamson County Homeless Alliance, was originally scheduled to open in July, but alliance co-founder Kevin Riggs told the Tennessean that the date of opening would likely be in the fall due to not getting it. allowed. Once permits are approved, which Riggs says will take place this month, renovations can be completed in as little as two months.
The group home will provide transitional housing for eight people at a time and is essential in wealthy Williamson County. Although the county is the wealthiest community in Tennessee, there is a clear disparity between upper-middle-class and low-income residents.
The US Census reports that approximately 80% of county residents own their homes. The median value of owner-occupied residences based on 2015 to 2019 data is $ 449,000. Realtor.com has found that the median home price is $ 825,000 for homes currently listed on the market. The census reports that the median income is over $ 112,000, according to the latest data.
But despite the lavish homes and luxury communities, there are people who earn as little as $ 12 an hour, Riggs said, which is less than $ 2,000 a month – before taxes. Census data shows that from 2015 to 2019, the median rent in Williamson County was $ 1,500. It is estimated that 4% of the county’s residents live in poverty.
“To live in Williamson County without any help, the living wage is $ 30 an hour,” Riggs said. “People get annoyed with talking about $ 15 an hour. If you make $ 15 an hour for a family of four, you need two adults working full time.”
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The dream of a permanent group home has lasted for years for Riggs, who is the pastor of Franklin Community Church. The county’s housing needs have become too hard to ignore in recent years as it finds itself face to face with those in need.
“It’s something that was put in our face,” he said. “God has led us on this path.”
The group home will employ case managers who will help residents with everything they need to keep jobs and find permanent accommodation, from budgeting advice to help with paperwork. Many homeless people do not have ID, Riggs said, whether it is state-issued ID or a Social Security card, and the recovery of these documents can be tedious. Social workers will help with the quest and will be very practical with the residents of the house, as well as with other people outside the house that the alliance is helping.
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Alliance braces for wave of expulsions
With the federal moratorium on evictions set to end on July 31, Riggs said the alliance was preparing for even more people in Williamson County to lose their homes. The moratorium is unlikely to be extended again, officials told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re going to be in a bad spot not only here but across the country,” Riggs said. “People will be kicked out left and right … This wave is going to be catastrophic. If other people don’t step in and help, we’re going to be overwhelmed.”
Riggs said the alliance is currently helping up to 100 people in the county, mostly Franklin, find permanent housing. Throughout 2020, the organization hosted around 34 people, including an average of five children, in hotels across town each night, for a total of more than $ 100,000 in hotel fees.
Before the pandemic, people were housed overnight in churches that donated their buildings, but the coronavirus put an end to that. But even with churches that have offered refuge, Riggs predicts that it still costs the alliance $ 300 per night for staff to watch the church, provide cleaning services, and pay for insurance. He anticipates that the monthly operating costs of the group home will be approximately $ 2,000.
While Riggs hopes that one day there will be a full-time shelter in Williamson County, by then he calls on churches to fill the void. Its goal by 2022 is to find 31 churches in the community that will volunteer to welcome homeless people one night per month in their building. Right now that number is eight.
On the morning of his interview with The Tennessean, Riggs said he had already received at least four calls at 10 a.m. from people seeking help. Many of those who have lost their homes are people who work full time and have jobs, but are struggling to afford the rising cost of homes in the county. Riggs said a woman who reached out was from Franklin, born and raised in the city, but is on the verge of being evicted from her home, a move that will leave her without a permanent residence.
“The number of families becoming homeless is increasing in our county,” he said. “It’s not going to go away.”
How to help and get help
The most pressing need for the alliance right now is monetary donations, Riggs said. To donate, visit wilcohomeless.com.
If you need help, the alliance recently launched a new hotline at 615-979-5940. This line will put you in touch with resources.
What do you want to know about homelessness in Williamson County? Contact Brinley Hineman at [email protected] and on Twitter @brinleyhineman. To stay up to date on Williamson County news, sign up for our newsletter.