Roofless Radio Nashville- Q&A with Clarissa Hayes and Open Table

Tiny - Posted on 01 October 2019

Q: So tell us, how does the po'lice interact with us folks on the street here?


A: It's hurting my heart. When I come downtown, I see people sleeping at bus stops. In the grass. Stuff like that. I'm telling these people to get off these streets, try to find a room or something. I'm helping a couple right now, named Tony and Leanne, get off these streets.


Q: And do the cops give citations when you on the street? How does that work? You said that happened to you.


A: I got one at 3 o' clock in the morning. They pulled up on the sidewalk with their flashes on my eyes. Woke everybody up. It's like, wake up, we've got cops right here.


Q: And, then did they take your stuff? Because in the Bay, they take our stuff and throw it away, and they pretend we're going to get it back.


A: We kept most of our stuff. I had a little small things with me.


Q: Do you know about encampments? Do they take their stuff?


A: They used to. And at the higher profile encampments where a lot of advocates and outreach workers are present, we've gotten a little more savvy and people know their rights a little bit more. But they used to. We've had situations of entire sweeps, where they pull stuff in the dumpster with no notice. And people lose their birth certificates, their IDs, their only possessions in this world. We've done so much advocacy here, that that's one of the things that happens less now. But it does still happen in small ways.


Q: Your local politricksters, are they mainly Republican?


A: Tennessee is a mostly Republican state, but we have some Democratic cores in the cities. Like Nashville, Memphis and others. But what's really hard is that we'll finally get some good legislation passed on the city level, that'll be good in terms of housing or criminalization or wages, and then what happens is the state comes in and they shut it down and they preempt it. And they say, you can't do that in this state because XYZ. So it's a battle. We want revolution, but even reform is a battle, getting those small things passed.


Q: Can one of you tell me about you guys trying to build the tiny houses, and what's going on with that?


A: Yeah. So I work with a non-profit, Open Table Nashville, and we're in solidarity with our friends who are dying. And we have people dying every month on waiting lists for housing. A lot of medical vulnerabilities, we've got a lot of other issues. Getting discharged from the hospital to the streets. And we are building a micro-home village because we want to end the deaths, and give people a place to recover and kind of respite, and community. And we decided to partner with this church here to use religious land, because there's a lot of great legal loopholes with religious land use. And groups that really truly believe it is their religion to care for the poor and provide housing and justice. They can use their land for things that can't be overly burdened by zoning laws. So, we didn't have to go through a zoning change for this land to build the micro-home villages that we have up. But what happened is, the neighbors got really pissed. Some of them, not all of them. A small group of neighbors came and they said, we're suing the church. The neighbors are suing this church, for trying to house our people that are dying. And we are fighting that, of course. We've won a couple levels, they keep appealing it. So now it's up at the Tennessee Supreme Court level. 


Q: Let me back up. On what law are they suing?


A: They said that they-- well, it's bullshit, first of all.


A: That's too much. It's extra.


A: That is. So they said that going through the zoning process didn't substantially burden the church. But it did. Because we would have never gotten it through the zoning, a zoning change. Because the council memburber in this district didn't want the project. So, he would have been against it. And we said we would have been substantially burdened.


Q: That's a law, to say substantially burdened?


A: The in the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. It's RLUIPA. And it allows religious groups to provide things like sanctuary. It allows them to do things like that, that zoning may not allow. But that their freedom of religion trumps the zoning laws of the area. Basically.


Q: OK, so that was how you moved on it.


A: That was how we moved on it. 


Q: And these people are saying that that's not true?


A: Yep. And they're losing. So.


A: None whatsoever.


Q: Right? Because how can they say that's not true. Under what authority.


A: They're losing. They just-- they're making it really hard.


A: Just like yesterday, they tore our trees down.


A: Where in the park. 


A: In the park, they tore our trees down, where nobody cannot sleep.


A: What else did they put in, in the park?


A: Cactus.


A: They put in cactus, so they couldn't lean their back against the wall.


A: Like downtown. And they tore our benches up too. We had two benches, one by the fence and one by the trash cans, and they tore that up.


A: Over 30 have been removed.


A: Over 30 have been removed.


Q: They do that same thing [in the Bay].


A: And now, 505 bought the library park from us.


A: Not yet. There's a developer that is trying to buy the park in front of the National Public Library.


A: And it will turn into--


Q: Wait, wait. A devil-oper is trying to buy a public park. That's on a new level fam.


A: It is.


A: It is. And turn it into a 65-story luxury condo.


Q: Wait! Under what loophole is that BS.


A: And then they would make the library park move to a different location. 


A: He wants to do a land swap to dominate Church St. Because he's already got three or four developments on Church St. 


Q: Let's call this wealth hoarder out. What's his name?


A: His name is Tony Giartano. We call him Tony G, which is the mafia name we gave him.


A: They're going to turn our library into a strip mall.


A: We're fighting back. A lot of people are not happy about it and a lot of people are writing back.


A: I'm not happy about it at all. When I found out, I was about to cry.


Q: I'm sure. That ain't even right though. That's even not legally right,


A: It was a big mess.


Q: Under their own laws that's not legal.


A: That's where all the kids go after school. 


Q: Right. And it's probably conveniently located, for a reason. 


A: It's right on transportation. The downtown library is where a lot of folks are able to access all of the internet, clearly. But also the downtown library's found this balance of holding that space for folks. They're great. It's one of the few spaces downtown that you can actually go to the bathroom.


Q: And the other bathroom you can go to is the one down the parking garage.


A: Yeah. So we've got some work to do here. 


A: I've going to sit and start making a list of what's going on in the park.


Q: Yeah, because you can report every week, right?


A: Yes. Because this is what I do. This is what I do for the homeless. Trying to tell them where to sleep, where they can lay their heads.


Q: And for people listening and viewing, Poor News Network and Roofless Radio, our up and coming Roofless Radio reporter is:


A: Clarissa Hayes.


Q: Get ready. Because Nashville and Califaztlan has a new reporter. And she's going to be telling the truth every day.


Sign-up for POOR email!