NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Denver7 sister station WTVF in Nashville exposed a controversial program that pays for one-way bus tickets for area homeless. Some of those destinations include Denver, which is dealing with an upswing in homeless individuals.
The station discovered many homeless people with long criminal records getting one-way tickets out of Nashville, courtesy of the Nashville Downtown Partnership.
The partnership’s Homeward Bound program has given away more than 900 bus tickets since 2008.
WTVF asked, "Is there any pressure on them to take a bus ticket and leave town?"
"Not that I know of, " said Tom Turner, president and CEO of the Nashville Downtown Partnership.
Among those getting tickets was Harold Silvey who was arrested more than 100 times for things like public intoxication in downtown Nashville.
Despite repeated arrests and being cited for things like "annoying" the public, Silvey was given a one-way ticket to Denver because the partnership believed he had a job there.
WTVF asked, "Is it realistic that someone with 103 arrests, the last one for public intoxication, has a job waiting for him in another city?"
Turner responded, "It's possible."
Turner went on to say, "We called the phone number that he gave us and take people at their word when they are asking for help."
Silvey was arrested just over a month after arriving in Denver on alcohol charges.
He has been arrested at least six times since.
WTVF asked, "They were getting multiple arrests here. They got multiple arrests there. Are you surprised by that?"
Turner responded, "I think that behavior unless people end up in a stable environment, behavior is going to continue."
The District Attorney's Office said there is no promise to drop charges if someone accepts a bus ticket.
But chronic offenders meet with a social worker after they are arrested who may tell them about the program.
WTVF asked, "Do you think other cities bus their problems to us?"
Turner said, "I wouldn't know. I don't know what other cities do."
Turner says the Partnership employs a full-time social worker who works with the homeless and puts some in permanent housing.
He plans no change for Homeward Bound.
"We are providing assistance to people who asked for it whether they have arrests or not. We think that's right."
Denver has experienced a surge in the homeless population over the last couple of years. Many of those staying in shelters come to Denver with big plans and find they can't make ends meet, Tom Luehrs, the executive director of capital city's Saint Francis Center, said in a 2014 interview.