By Randy Salars
Silver City Gospel Mission
July 10th, 2015
Last night, I attended “It Takes A Village” Great Conversation on Homelessness at the Volunteer Center.
It was well-attended by around 50 people including community leaders, social and mental health professionals, Main Street Representatives, property owners, those without homes and caring members of our small town.
We discussed the homeless problem in Silver City and many concerns were aired; overall I felt it was productive and a great way to get something started in looking at the various issues that homelessness can cause.
As one who sees this problem on a daily basis, I thought I’d let you know of few of my own views, needs and concerns and answer a few questions that were brought to my attention.
Why Don’t You Open The Emergency Shelter In The Gospel Mission Soup Kitchen Year Round?
- It was originally discussed by our board and they decided that they did not want to make it a permanent shelter; it is far from an ideal situation as we have to move tables out of the way and set up cots in our soup kitchen
- It is kind of crowded when we have our max of 15 men.
- They felt we needed to move these guys out of homelessness and not give them a permanent home to live in right at the Mission
- We don’t have the money or personnel to run it full time
What Would It Take To Open The Emergency Shelter Full Time?
- Two greeters (of any gender) each night who come in between 5:30 and 7:30pm to sign the guys in, get them set up and feed them dinner; it would be nice to have a pool of 28-30 people to draw from. That way we you would only have to come in once every 2 weeks and we’d have some alternates to call upon
- Two responsible overnight male hosts who are paid $20 each night to supervise the men between 7:30 pm and 7:30 am. One to work during the week and one to work on weekends.
- $7,280 to pay the overnight hosts for the year and some cash for dinners and incidentals; round it out to an even $15-20,000 to cover food, expenses, equipment replacements and repairs.
What Can Be Done To End Our Homeless Problem?
- Besides preventing it from happening in the first place, we need to look at the housing first model being used in many areas. They are finding it is cheaper to get the homeless in homes asap and try and solve their other problems once they are housed.
- We need immediate adequate, safe, supervised emergency shelter for women, children, men, families and transgenders. Either one large warehouse, an apartment complex, multiple single family homes, mini storage unit houses or containers built on site with adequate sanitation or a tent camp modeled after the Las Cruces ‘City Of Hope’, all zoned appropriately and with the funds to transform and manage them.
What Do The Homeless Really Need Right Now Besides Shelter?
- The Mission always has some emergency supplies on hand. Currently we have tons of hygiene items and first aid kits, but very few tarps, tents or bedrolls. We have plenty of food and clothing, but are short on funding for our case worker who tries to move people out of homelessness.
- Grant Writers, funds, emergency supplies and volunteers are always needed.
What Can Be Done To Prevent Property Damage And Aggressive Panhandling?
- A big step was getting a bus stop at the Mission to prevent walking all the way up Main Street to catch the bus.
- Get people in a centralized shelter/Mission area to control sanitation and addiction use and to get them the help that they need
- Make any sort of panhandling, not just aggressive illegal (warnings, then arrest) ; the Mission can supply most of the essentials of life or refer to other agencies if more is needed (Found out that we can’t do this as it is against their civil rights)
- Send people who are panhandling at Walmart, etc to the Mission to get help; we rarely, if ever see people from the outer grocery stores seeking our services as they are normally not Silver City residents.
Do We Sometimes Ban People From the Mission?
- Unfortunately, yes. Occasionally someone may get banned for fighting, drug use or dealing or other issues that may concern the safety of others. It is never permanent and they know they can always go to the front door to get food, clothing or other help if they need it.
Silver City Has A Choice to Make
Are we going to be known as a town that puts all of the bums on a one-way bus out of town, smashes homeless shopping carts with sledgehammers, tasers and shoots those sleeping on private property where everyone is shouting NAMBY (Not In My Back Yard).
Or are we going to be known as a friendly small town, where we wave to each other on the street, care about those sleeping in the snow, help each other overcome our bad habits, addictions, sins and faults of which we are all guilty of and try and get a handle on this homeless situation before it becomes a major issue?
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