An MTSU social work professor and graduate student will present the results of a study aimed at devising a better way for Murfreesboro to help the homeless during a City Council workshop session Thursday, July 13.
The council will hear from Dr. Michael Sherr, chair of MTSU’s Department of Social Work, and Jackie Jones, a social work master’s degree candidate, at 4 p.m. in the group’s chambers at City Hall, 111 W. Vine St.
Members of the public interested in learning more about this study and local efforts to help at-risk families are encouraged to participate.
Sherr, Jones and two social work undergraduates have been working since January with the city of Murfreesboro and the Homeless Alliance of Rutherford County on a concept where social service agencies could establish satellite offices, creating a “one-stop” environment for many types of assistance.
The study specifically recommends that local agencies coordinate their resources and services into a centralized campus designed to more effectively and conveniently help individuals with getting into affordable, permanent housing.
“Finding available, affordable housing is getting more difficult,” said Sherr. “The city is getting bigger, and there are enough people, enough stakeholders from different parts of our community that need and want to work together to address housing concerns now.”
Sherr discussed the problem and the MTSU study in an appearance on the “MTSU On the Record” radio program this spring; you can listen to his conversation with host Gina Logue below.
Murfreesboro continues to experience growth, and its population, estimated at 131,947 in 2016 by the U.S. Census Bureau, is expected to reach 228,000 by 2035. It’s been the fastest-growing city in Tennessee for the last three years and is one of the 15 fastest-growing large cities in the United States.
The Murfreesboro 2035 comprehensive plan calls for providing a mix of housing options, including a comprehensive solution to meeting the needs of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.
The MTSU study “Conceptual Master Plan” outlines community needs, current costs and future benefits, programs and capacities, and agencies and partners to provide housing. It was funded by a $15,000 city grant.
The students also interned with The Journey Home, a community outreach center for the homeless and at-risk residents of Rutherford County located at 308 Castle St.
America’s homeless population has soared across U.S. cities since the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2008. The city of Murfreesboro, its partner social service agencies, and nonprofit organizations are considering a number of approaches to reducing homelessness.
“Reducing homelessness is a communitywide issue that simply cannot be ignored,” said City Community Development Director John Callow.
“We are sincerely grateful to MTSU for studying ways the city can leverage strengths as a community toward ensuring that housing services are provided in the most effective and efficient manner.”
Established in 1999, the Murfreesboro/Rutherford County Homeless Task Force, now known as the Homeless Alliance of Rutherford County, worked with the MTSU social work contingent. The alliance has been working on a longer-term solution to create a centralized social services campus for a one-stop approach to providing community resources, particularly to the most vulnerable and homeless.
The campus-style approach has proven effective in other cities, including San Antonio, Texas, and Columbia, South Carolina. If the council approves the MTSU study recommendations, the Homeless Alliance will organize additional service providers into a planning committee to establish a core list of participants in the future campus.
For more information about the effort, visit www.murfreesborotn.org.
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