Less like a shelter, more like a home; Tennessee corps seeks to ‘start a conversation’

By: David Ibata

Recently finished renovations at the Nashville, Tennessee, Center of Hope advance The Salvation Army’s goal of “starting a conversation” with persons and families needing the safety of supportive housing.

“We don’t focus on the rules of the shelter, as much as the goals of the residents,” said Major Ethan Frizzell, area commander of the Nashville Metropolitan Area Command. “In doing this, we have seen more success and more initiative from the residents, as the whole program is centered around them, their goals, their future.”

A “Grand Re-Opening” open house was held May 24 to show off the recently completed, $700,000 upgrade to the Center of Hope’s “Residences of Bison Trail.” Its capacity is now 16 women at the Suites on Bison Trail – double the previous capacity – 16 men at the Lodge on Bison Trail and 12 families at the Lofts on Bison Trail.

Bison Trail, at 631 Dickerson Pike, is home to the Nashville Command’s Quality of Life Supportive Housing services, which aims to help people achieve, as quickly as they can, the stability of permanent housing.

A client’s average length of stay has gone from two years to between two and four months, depending on a person’s needs. Case management is continued until stability is secured.

Once a client moves into the community, he or she can choose to continue with The Salvation Army by connecting with resources at three other Red Shield campuses and initiatives such as the $1,000 Challenge, Pathway of Hope and Red Shield Kids Club.

Bison Trail improvements included public-area upgrades to make the place seem less institutional and more welcoming. Individual residences, for example, got apartment-style doors.

The lobby has a concierge’s desk, like an in-city condominium building. Restrooms now resemble those found in downtown office buildings, the women’s lounge is modeled after the lounge found in a Marriott Fairfield Hotel, and the family lounge resembles a Montessori classroom – “a large space broken up into smaller places for family engagements,” Major Frizzell said.

Individual residences got drop ceilings, softer more-efficient lighting, dimmable light fixtures and ceiling fans. Wi-Fi enabled TVs were installed throughout the building, as well as faster internet, “because we know access to resources helps people feel at home and connects them to the greater community,” the major said.

Bison Trail represents the first phase of a multi-year, $8 million capital campaign to refresh the Army’s four campuses in Nashville. The next property to be improved will be the East Campus, 225 Berry St., home of a community center, social service office and Berry Street Corps.