Mayor John Cooper released a statement Tuesday defending his decision to organize tours with Metro Council members of homeless encampments in Nashville. Councilman Colby Sledge tipped the public to the goings-on by the mayor’s office, which prompted citizens’ angry responses.

Cooper’s statement explained the tours were “to help in understanding the intended use of the proposed funding and the installation of cameras in particular. Metro agencies will be present to answer questions, and all visits will be conducted in a manner respectful of the individuals who may be present in the encampments.”

The mayor added that the money for the camps would come from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act – of which $3.91 billion was allocated to Tennessee – and that the money would be put towards “additional staff, programming, partnerships with nonprofits, and most importantly, support for nearly 600 Nashvillians housed through rapid housing.”

Many responded to Cooper’s statement saying that he should focus on providing better affordable housing options instead of the tours. A reply from one Music City resident echoed a common sentiment: to find a lasting solution to reduce the growing prevalence homelessness in Nashville.

“I am a Nashville voter that is extremely concerned about the homeless situation in Nashville. It is [an] epidemic. Cameras are great to give them the dignity of protection under the law, but we need to look at what other cities have done,” user Joanne Billett tweeted.

Council Member Colby Sledge shared on Twitter the day before the Mayor released his statement that the tours would be at Azafrán Park, where there are currently no homelessness encampments.

Council Member at Large Bob Mendes released an email from Vice Mayor Jim Shulman in response to Sledge’s tweet on the tours. Mendes said that “Council Members just [received] this in Inbox from Vice Mayor about these tours (that apparently nobody was going to go on)…”

The email from Shulman said that “No one ever discussed with me a group Council tour of these encampments. If they had, I can assure you that I would have never supported such a tour.”

Shulman continued that while he had toured the encampments before, that he felt the group tours were not the proper way to address the homelessness in Nashville. He added that the tours “are solely for the Council; the Mayor does not plan to attend.”

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Morgan Nicole Veysey is a reporter for The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Follow her on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].