Homeless Population Increasing In Longview - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

10/4/06-Longview

Homeless Population Increasing In Longview

   East Texas' homeless population is on the rise. Shelter workers in Longview say they've had to accommodate more than 200 homeless people in the past few months.   

Police say it's becoming a familiar sight in Longview homeless people in parks and public places.

    "We just don't have enough shelters to house them all," said Sergeant Ben Kemper of the Longview Police Department.

     Local shelters like the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission and Salvation Army are full every night.

   "Some nights we have 85 men here; last night, we had 70-something. We've definitely noticed an increase. Two years ago, about 85-percent of the people who stayed with us, were from the community. Now it is about 65-percent," said Tony Chung, Hiway 80 Mission Director. "We have folks from Ohio, Houston , Shreveport, Georgia... all over the country coming through here."

      Longview police say their finding homeless people more frequently in places like under bridge overpasses, seeking shelter from the heat or cold.

     "Some of our transients try to get up close to businesses sleep in the bushes and what-not, obviously business owners have an issue with that," said Kemper.

    Truck driver- "Jerry Wells" is staying at the mission. Wells says he was helping reconstruct New Orleans, when he found himself homeless for the first time.

     "You could be on top of the world making good money and then boom, it hits," he said.

    Wells said he walked two days to get to Longview.

     "For quite a few months we were doing pretty good, and then the FEMA money played out. With nothing, I took what little I had, and came home," Wells said.

      Mission workers say for whatever reason, people are ending up in Longview, and they believe more will come.

    "Within the next two years , 200 to 300 (homeless people) is very possible," said Chung.

      There are plans to create more places for the homeless to stay in Longview. Hiway 80 Rescue Mission will have a 50- bed dormitory built. Construction is expected to start early next year.

Bob Hallmark, reporting, bhallmark@kltv.com

 

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