By Joseph Hamrick
Once an issue exclusive to major cities, the homeless population in Greenville has expanded to approximately 300, according to community leaders.
Estimates by Sgt. Wes Trueblood of the Salvation Army and Melissa Bishop, who is spearheading a local effort to establish the New Found Hope Homeless shelter in Greenville, include individuals camping in wooded areas of the city and multiple families living in single-family residences.
“There are two, sometimes three families living in a single family home,” he said. “It’s not just people outside.”
While residents may be spurred to provide supplies to local homeless, Trueblood said that the community’s efforts would be more successful if they supported Bishop’s campaign to establish a shelter.
“We need a viable, long-term solution for homeless people,” he said. “We can provide those people a place to come for shelter and food, as well as the tools they need to be successful members of society.”
Trueblood and Bishop are modeling the planned shelter after the Samaritan Inn in McKinney.
The Samaritan Inn is a faith-based shelter that provides homeless people food, shelter and classes that teach skills to help them return to the workforce.
More than 70 percent of the people who go through the Samaritan Inn had income and housing when they moved on.
While there are shelters in Hunt County, such as Beacons of Grace and a small emergency shelter run by the Salvation Army, they are at or near capacity.
The lack of available beds concerns Trueblood, who does not want to see the homeless in Greenville treated as they were in Colorado.In 2012, the Denver City Council passed a ban on “unauthorized camping” designed to prevent people from camping in parks. Trueblood said what followed did not solve the city’s problem.
“They shipped 100-150 homeless people to another town entirely,” he said. “They solved the homeless problem for their town, but it hurts those people because they have no one and no where to fall back on.”
According to Trueblood, the homeless shouldn’t be discriminated against “when they truly just need our help.”
Trueblood and Melissa Bishop recently spoke during the citizens to be heard portion of July 23 Greenville City Council meeting on the homelessness issue.
The planned shelter would house not only a short-term place for people to stay, but also an organization that will help the people deal with the root problem of their homelessness.
“We want to begin helping them to deal with the issues that brought them here,” he said. “We can end the homeless problem.”
Trueblood, Bishop and other leaders of the movement are scheduled to be on the Aug. 13 city council agenda to present their plan for the shelter.
For more information about the shelter, visit the New Found Hope Homeless Shelter Facebook page.