Breaking Ground

The Village at Glencliff: A Micro-Home Community

by Deaconess Liz Shadbolt

November 22, 2017

Housing. Healing. Hope. These are the keywords in our mission at Open Table Nashville, where I have been serving for the past three years as a deaconess in the role of volunteer coordinator. In these three short years, Open Table Nashville has been through many changes. When I joined, I was the fifth person on staff and the only person to ever get a salary from day one - the others had volunteered first or were the organization’s founders. We met once a week at the Executive Director’s dining room table and used a Public Storage unit to hold donations. Now, just a few short years later, we have 12 full and part time employees, 2 Americorp VISTA volunteers, and a slew of interns.

I hate to phrase this as a “success” of an organization whose goal is to eliminate homelessness in Nashville. We’ve grown as homelessness has grown. We’ve grown as Nashville has become an “it” city and developers have replaced low-income housing with condos. We’ve grown as each section of our city has seen gentrification, displacement, and skyrocketing rents. While I appreciate the amazing talent and dedication of our team, our work is to advocate, educate, and agitate for housing justice in our city and to eventually work ourselves out of a job.

Amidst our worries over the state of our city, we’ve had a bright spot this fall - the groundbreaking on The Village at Glencliff, a micro-home community that will provide bridge housing to our most vulnerable friends experiencing homelessness. It’s been over two years in the planning & praying process, but we have all the building permits and permissions and the sewer line will soon be dug. After having a church partnership fall through early in the process, we found a local church, Glencliff UMC, with a lot of land who was willing to step out in faith on a project that hasn’t been attempted in our city - to use the Religious Land Use Act (RLUPIA) to house unhoused people on church property. This isn’t a “tent city” or an overnight shelter. The Village will be 22 free-standing micro homes with bathrooms, small kitchens, air and heat. There will be a care coordinator on site and a place to do laundry and to meet as a community. Our vision is that people will come from hospital, from prison, from campsites, to heal and regain their strength, to connect with community and love, and eventually find their place in the larger community of Nashville.

This has not been a simple process - there has been push-back and fear. We’ve tried our best to communicate and answer questions, but the fear of “the other” runs deep. Thank goodness for the connectionalism of the United Methodist Church! Our conference staff, our bishop, our deacons and elders, not to mention my fantastic TNUMC deaconess sisters, have offered support and encouragement every day. We couldn’t be prouder of the community who surrounds us. And we’re excited to pass the blessing of supportive community to our friends on the street.

Liz Shadbolt serves as the Open Table Nashville Volunteer & Operations Coordinator in Nashville, TN. As a United Methodist Deaconess, Liz is dedicated to creating community and connecting faith with service. Nashville has been home to Liz and her family for 15 years. She’s an advocate for refugee and immigrant communities and spends her own volunteer time with folks in the South Nashville area. Her passion is for engaging and connecting those who live on the margins, whether that be socioeconomic, cultural, or linguistic. Liz holds a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from the Ohio State University and a certificate in Christian ministry from New York Theological Seminary. In her free time, Liz can be found helping two kids with homework, reading, and cooking. Contact Liz at