Nashville City Fights Church Over Homeless Encampment

The City of Nashville is demanding that a church close down its encampment of tents for the homeless on its property, saying that it violates a zoning law.

Nashville officials told Green Street Church of Christ that the placement of about ten tents is a zoning violation, but the church maintains that such an encampment is part of their mission to help the poor.

Tom Cross, an associate director with Nashville's legal division, told The Christian Post that the tent community falls under the zoning laws regarding camping.

"The Metropolitan Government's zoning laws allow camping only in specific areas, which do not include the church property at issue," said Cross.

Cross also told CP that he hopes an agreement can be reached between the City and the church outside of the courtroom.

"We're all interested in seeing that shelter and other services are available for those who need them," said Cross, noting that there are other facilities nearby that could help the tent dwellers.

"In addition, we would like to accommodate the religious mission of the church while also protecting public health and safety."

Jim Atwood, pastor at Green Street, explained in an interview with The Associated Press that their homeless encampment is God's will.

"We believe that it is God's will for his property to be used to provide a place for needy people to come, a place where they are safe and a place where they can begin to put back together the broken pieces of their lives," said Atwood.

"Our vision is to have a downtown location where God is free to help and heal many of the forgotten, and often forsaken, people of our city…We are simply doing what a church ought to do."

According to the local network media WKRN-TV Channel 2, Greet Street has been providing tent space for the homeless over the past several months.

In an interview with WKRN 2, the church attorney Tripp Hunt explained that Green Street feels a special calling to have the tent community, which church members help keep drug and alcohol free.

"It is the church's belief that when they see a poor person, they see Jesus and they feel that to ignore a poor person or not help them would be to violate their religious beliefs, violate what they see is in the Bible and to turn Jesus away," said Hunt.

The Green Street Church of Christ of Nashville, Tennessee did not return comment by press time.