Where We Live.

Recently Vanderbilt University students, together with Habitat For Humanity, put together an open air exhibit on the quad in front of the library. The simple wooden benches were made to raise awareness of homelessness. Students do this every year in the spring, at a time when the homeless are less at risk from freezing but still face challenges.

The exhibit included a pamphlet with some disturbing facts. Homelessness is a concern in most cities, but Nashville’s rapid population growth has made it even more difficult. There have been some efforts to help; all over the city you’ll find people selling The Contributor, a weekly newspaper written and sold by homeless and formerly homeless people, but it’s not able to help everyone.

During the day the unfinished wooden benches stand out against the green grass, but at night they’re transformed. Solar batteries, at a time when the days are getting longer, store and transfer power to them through the night. They remain visible; they may even be more visible. And the placement of the exhibit in the middle of a university campus is especially poignant. This is a place where students, and some faculty and staff, live. It’s where others spend a great deal of their lives. Vanderbilt is a private university, but it’s also part of and aware of the community that surrounds and supports it.

The exhibit is only temporary, unlike the issue of homelessness which will still be with us.

 

 

9 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    Thanks for another illuminating post, Chris. It got me where I live.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      One of the wonderful things about the internet is it erases distance and allows people to reach each other where they live all over the world.

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    That’s a very powerful exhibit. Homelessness is rampant in the downtown where I live during the week and no wonder. I saw the price of an apartment in Nashville–a studio in downtown Toronto is at least 1800 not including utilities. All the affordable neighbourhoods are being “gentrified”, leaving little available for minimum wage workers.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s really sad how gentrification is reshaping old neighborhoods, making a lot of them nicer but also making it harder for the people who live there–and who have lived there for decades in some cases–to continue living there. What’s most depressing, though, is how much the prices are being driven up by air b&b’s–many of them owned by people who don’t live in Nashville, or even the United States.
      Although we can also find some humor in gentrification. A local magazine runs an annual “You Are So Nashville If…” contest and one year one of the entries was “You don’t tell your parents you’re gay. You just move to East Nashville.”

      Reply
      1. Allison

        My favorite was YASNI, “You live on Nolensville Pike but drive to The Gulch to eat Mexican.”

        Reply
  3. michelle poston combs

    Wow…that exhibit.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It was really powerful. Every year a group of students does something to raise awareness about homelessness, but this is the first year I think they’ve done it with such a powerful art exhibit.

      Reply
  4. Allison

    That’s spectacular. I haven’t spent much time on the Vanderbilt campus, but this is a reminder that I really need to make the effort. My experience with the students there has been positive, and this is really touching.

    I support The Contributor, and I’ve served dinner a few times at the Nashville Mission -what I have learned is that many, many people are just a few unlucky breaks from being in real trouble.

    This makes me sad, but glad that the kids at Vandy are paying attention.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I forgot to mention that the campus is also a national arboretum, which also makes it worth visiting.
      Volunteering at the Nashville Mission is something I really should do. That’s a great thing. I’ve worked some with Room At The Inn and many years ago assisted with making a fundraising documentary about a homeless shelter that’s now closed, but I really should do more.

      Reply

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