Homeless people are often invisible neighbours: their plight is relentless, and most worryingly, silent. Here is the story of one couple riling against Nashville’s major crisis
Camp Negley was once somewhere dozens of homeless people in Nashville could call their own – out in the woods of Fort Negley, people had camped for years as they were let down by the endless wait lists and a wilfully ignorant local government. Many are victims of violence, mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, and hit after hit of serious misfortune to end up there. This year, the camp residents were evicted, leaving men, women and children again destitute. Elise Tyler’s film project Today Will Be Our Last Day On The Streets seeks to tell the tale of two of many caught in the crisis: Amber and Matt Bible.
“Matt and Amber are a beautiful couple. Their love is deep and inspiring, it provided the strength they needed to manoeuvre their time being homeless,” explains Tyler. “Their story is like so many others – mental illness makes steady work hard, drug addiction destroys dreams and relationships, and poverty cycles through generations, leaving families without proper support networks to deal with mental illness or drug addiction properly. Hard times hit, and Matt and Amber missed a few months rent.
“They were evicted with nowhere to go, so they figured it out – they got a tent. Matt continued to work while they lived in their tent, as many homeless do. They are survivors, and made the best of their situation.”
Months after becoming homeless, Amber found out she was pregnant – she worried about the uncomfortable, rising temperatures in an unforgiving Nashville summer, and the major possibility her baby would be taken from her. Tyler met the couple when Amber was eight months into her pregnancy.
“They allowed me and my crew to be part of their last days on the street, as Matt hustled up enough money to get Amber a motel room for a few nights, while he searched for – and eventually found –temporary housing for them and their soon-to-arrive daughter. As Matt said with conviction while we filmed: ‘today will be our last day on the streets’.”
Tyler was initially approached by Kurt Wagner of Lambchop to collaborate. Rather than working on a music video together, they agreed that their creative output should work to reflect the complexities of a rapidly growing Nashville. As it grows bulbously, many of its residents find themselves pushed out, with no deserving platform for their plight. “All we can do as artists and communicators is to pass the microphone and allow someone else to tell their story,” observes Tyler. It was then that she reached out to Open Table Nashville, a charity that works with the local homeless population, to trace their stories.
The homeless are often, as Tyler says, “invisible neighbours”. And as Amber herself says, “Look in any woods, by the interstate, by a creek – there is someone living there." Though the homeless crisis is widespread and growing at an alarming rate, it’s an issue that remains faceless and side-lined.
Matt and Amber are fiercely in love – watching their attentiveness to each other, and seeing the pair do menial tasks like eating fast food, watching TV in the motel, doing laundry and washing in the creek is painfully sweet. Now they're off the streets, but they must continue to fight to keep what’s still an unstable environment for them and their newborn daughter.
Tyler recalls a quote by Audre Lorde she thought over during filming: “Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanisation is ceaseless". The homeless have a war raging against them: it’s ruthless and unrelenting, and maybe most terrifyingly: silent. Amber and Matt are just one of many stories of those fighting for their basic humanity, and to stay forever off the streets.
To help homeless people in Nashville, visit Open Table Nashville to donate.