Nashville’s Launch Pad for Street-Free Sleep

Dec 2014

Pam Sheffer is the Just Us Program Director at the Oasis Center in Nashville, Tennessee. She also spearheads Launch Pad. Our Community Organizing Intern Christa Price spoke with Pam about this initiative and the effect it’s having on the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.


christa-circle1-150x150Hey, Pam! So, what is Launch Pad?


pam-circle-150x150Launch Pad is a “street free sleep initiative,” fueled by a collective of concerned citizens within the LGBTQ & Allied community, which strives to provide open and affirming safer sleeping shelters for homeless youth, 18-24, in Davidson County, Tennessee.

christa-circle1-150x150Where did the idea come from?


pam-circle-150x150Nashville has a long history with a winter warmer program for homeless adults called Room In The Inn (RITI) which provides shelter during the winter months by a multitude of churches, parishes, synagogues, etc. However, most young adults do not access this program because they have to sign up early in the day, wait in line a long time, cannot bring their pets, and in most cases cannot stay with their significant other. We took the best aspects of this model and modified it to make it more accessible for young adults – later arrival time (doors don’t open until 9:00 p.m.), no gender based segregation, pets are welcome, and no requirements for participating in programming once they arrive.


christa-circle1-150x150What are Launch Pad’s plans for the future?


pam-circle-150x150Our goal is to be able to provide safer sleeping shelter alternatives at least 5 nights a week, through March of 2015, without turning away any young adult who needs shelter for the evening. Once we reach the Spring, we will evaluate with our host locations whether or not there is a demand to extend the safer sleeping shelters throughout the summer. Ultimately, what we want to happen is for homeless youth to be added to the list of most vulnerable homeless population members and to be provided an equity share of Section 8 housing vouchers and other state and federal assistance which are currently reserved for veterans, senior citizens, and the critically ill.


christa-circle1-150x150Any tips for folks who would like to start such an initiative?


pam-circle-150x150Hold a town hall meeting to determine if you have a large enough volunteer base to manage the initiative. Launch Pad has over 80 volunteers, 60 of whom have been trained to work in sheltersCreate a Task Force of people who are willing to commit to actively engaging in the development of the infrastructure. Empower an executive committee of 6-8 people to divide and conquer the tasks necessary to move forward. Tap into your community resources, your centers of influence, and other non-profit organizations to join you as partners. Promote the initiative via social media and launch a crowd raising site to create revenue to cover the cost of hosting homeless youth.