Nashville had a perennial problem that no single agency could solve. “On very cold nights, we have enough beds in our cold weather shelter but oftentimes it is difficult to get people to those beds, particularly for people who are resistant to authority structures – or people who live in encampments,” says Kristine LaLonde, former co-chief of Metropolitan Nashville’s Office of Innovation. Not everyone is downtown and close to a shelter in a metropolitan area that spans more than 500 square miles.
The answer to this problem came in part through Nashville’s work with the City Accelerator. “We now have an extreme weather transit card that we distribute through a network of frontline workers,” says LaLonde. “ It is a card that only is triggered during cold weather that you can use to ride the bus to get to a shelter for free.”
“It made a huge difference in the lives of the people who had them,” remembers Lalonde. “It also gave us some peace of mind that for those folks who were difficult to reach, in those moments we had already reached them ahead of time. It was a small thing but it made a tremendous difference in the lives of those people and in our fabric of the people who respond. They weren’t having to worry about those particular people having access.”
This simple and effective solution helped the city develop and field test new methods and tactics to address homelessness and poverty. This delivered on a promise Nashville made in its original pitch video to join the City Accelerator, where leaders detailed their plans to create three programs to build a culture of innovation: