Homeless Often Hidden in Tennessee

Friday, 29 January 2010 12:12 By John Mottern, t r u t h o u t | Report | name.

Homeless Often Hidden in Tennessee
(Photos by John Mottern)

"Tent City" is a place hidden out of sight and historically out of mind. It sprawls over a mud-rutted, brush-tangled acre of landscape nestled under a network of highway bridges along the Cumberland River on the outskirts of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. It is impossible to find unless one is directed or taken there. The camp is surrounded by a variety of chain-link fencing placed in different configurations that appear to have been installed in stages over many years.

This community of homeless men and women, constantly fluctuating in size, has been, to date, largely flying under the city's municipal radar. It appears that the camp has provided an unspoken service for the city as an alternative to municipal shelters, historically catering to a population of homeless, fringe people who might be battling drug and alcohol addiction or suffering from untreated mental illness, or the occasional sex offender avoiding mainstream society.

Recently, there has been a change at Tent City; the population is growing at a staggering rate. One consequence is that more attention is being given to this group of nearly 100 residents and their makeshift dwellings by both the media and advocacy groups.

Wendell Segroves, the unofficial leader of the homeless community Tent City in Nashville, TN, is like a father or chief leading his tribe. Photo: John Mottern

Wendell Segroves, the unofficial leader of the homeless community Tent City in Nashville, Tennessee, is like a father or chief leading his tribe.

Wendell Segroves, 52, who is the leader of the encampment, much like a father, says that the numbers are growing with the addition of new people who find themselves with no other place to live due to the harsh economy. Segroves lives in a small wooden dwelling in a back corner of the camp. He has three little, but tough looking, dogs, and has somehow managed both electricity and an Internet connection. He is wired into, and is on top of, the homeless scene both in Nashville and around the country. He contributes to homeless blogs and is working to build a network on the web to enable homeless people to engage and discuss issues.

Nashville Surge

John Mottern

John Mottern is an award-winning photographer based in Massachusetts, and has covered major stories and sporting events around the world for the last 25 years. His career started at The Boston Globe in the late 80s and continued until 2006 as a contract photographer for Agence France-Presse. Mottern has been published in scores of major newspapers and magazines around the world, and has covered every presidential election since George Bush senior first took office. His coverage in El Salvador was honored by Pictures of the Year with the first place prize for newspaper portrait photography for images of children injured by war. He focuses on social issues and politics, and is currently working on a series of stories with photographs about America's homeless.
Last modified on Friday, 29 January 2010 14:18