Future Homelessness Plans Considered
With only a couple more months of winter, concerns about the next steps regarding the issue of homelessness are heating up.
Mayor Eddie Sundquist, Sean Jones, project manager at the Mental Health Association, and Steven Cobb, executive director of the Mental Health Association, recently discussed the need to consider future plans for sheltering.
Looking ahead to the long-term issue of homelessness in Jamestown, Cobb shared his concerns regarding the need for shelter options after the winter months.
“The thing I keep thinking about and I don’t know the answer to this, but it is the first time we’ve had a shelter for females,” he said. “What do we do at the end of April?”
Sundquist pointed out that unless homeless women or homeless families were victims of domestic violence, the city has not had any shelter for them until this winter. Besides the Joy Fellowship emergency shelter and the Mental Health Association Shelter, women and families have not had any other options for shelter.
While the United Christian Advocacy Network City Mission and other organizations have outlined plans for future shelters that can accommodate homeless women and families, current plans for additional shelters to be completed are at least a year or two away.
“Some of the females who have stayed have just been ecstatic that they can even be here, because it’s like Steve said, there is nowhere else for them,” Jones said. “If they were to go to like Social Services or something like that, and they were put in a hotel, sometimes that’s a worse situation than where they’re coming from. I hate to say it, but it’s just the truth. I mean even to keep this going just for females would be amazing, because they didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Jones shared an example of a single woman who recently stayed at the MHA homeless shelter. The night before she came to the shelter, she was provided a room at a local motel. Unfortunately, the place was not a safe place for her to stay, as three individuals attempted to break into her room. Jones shared that her reaction to staying at the shelter was that it was safer for her than staying in a local motel or hotel.
“To come here and be in a room filled with people and feel safer than in a private room, just shows that there’s a huge need for it out there for safe places for women to go,” he said.
While Sundquist acknowledged the difficulty of arranging long-term homeless shelter plans, he shared that his plan is to host another meeting with resource providers, faith-based community leaders and medical providers.
“I do want to bring the group back together and say what do we do with winter ending and start to think through some of that,” he said. “It’s certainly a challenge. I don’t have an answer. This is the first the city has really had to try to help push things along.”
Cobb stressed his desire to see MHA play a potential role in long-term plans, if at all possible, especially to provide continued shelter for female individuals who have no other place to go.
“If it’s something we can step up to and help fill, we will,” he said. “I don’t know what that is, but maybe over the next few weeks, we can begin to explore that together.”