Two and a half years after the Homeless Task Force dove head first into its ten-year plan to end homelessness, 1500 people are still living without a place to call their own, but changes are in the works.
Most homeless people find themselves in unfortunate situations like domestic disputes and losing a job, but chronic homelessness affects many people in Columbus as well. Mental health problems and substance abuse account for many of their challenges, but some are stuck in a cycle of financial instability.
The task force's goal to build a resource center for area homeless would provide counseling services for all of these problems, essentially teaching them how to be independent and responsible.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson says, "If you have a one-stop shop that can counsel them and alleviate some of the pressures those concerns put on their lives, you can prevent it by getting them into early treatment and connected with early services."
Rick McKnight is on the board of Home for Good: The Alliance to End Homelessness, which is in charge of implementing the ten-year plan. He says, "We are looking for ways to dramatically change people's lives that we can help them be better citizens, more productive, honest, hard-working. We're not looking to give them a fish. We're looking to teach them how to fish."
So far the task force has worked with organizations like the Homeless Resource Network to form the Homeless Management Information System, a database being compiled to track trends in local vagrancy. Mayor Tomlinson says the plan is to work with area organizations to consolidate some of their services so people in need don't have to go from place to place to get help.
"It's very important that we respect the individual service providers and somehow bring their skill and expertise into this mix and find a way to leverage it to better result," she says.
The cost of building a one-stop shop won't be cheap. Mayor Tomlinson says a proposal for the center could be ready by the end of the year. She says funding will rely heavily on private partnerships. There are also a number of grants the city will be applying for to help with the cost.
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