LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - The homeless population is steadily increasing in an East Texas city.
A recent survey estimated Longview's homeless population at 380. The number of homeless people has gone up every year for the last three years.
They hope a homeless task force will help tackle the broad range of problems.The plight and increasing numbers of homeless in Longview, led mayor Andy Mack to a decision.
"I am in the process of arranging a mayors' task force on the homeless," Mack said.
Local artist Anup Bandhari has been an advocate for helping the homeless for over ten years, and hopes that the task force will do more than
just provide shelter and food.
"It's been an eye-opening experience. I don't know how it works, but maybe the city can work jobs, small jobs for the city. Help them to find job
and they can stand on their own," he says.
Hiway 80 Rescue Mission Director Eric Burger has been asked to serve on the board, and says there are a number of diverse homeless aspects that
have to be addressed.
"There's certainly an increasing number of homeless in Longview and the surrounding areas. Almost 60 percent of the people we're serving are employed while they're homeless. We need to look at the impact of panhandling. The [number of] mentally ill is certainly becoming and bigger and bigger challenge," Burger says.
"Our homeless numbers are growing and our focus should be to decrease our homeless population. It's something we want to pretend doesn't exist, but it does exist," Mack says.
A patch of woods, less than a mile away from downtown Longview, is where a population of the homeless live and sleep every night. And they could be the most difficult to try to help through this task force.
"We have a population with mental illness, and their treatment is hard to arrange. Because they're transients. We will always have that population," says Newgate Mission Director Linda Cunningham.
It's a problem that will not be solved overnight. But there is promise.
"Having a group come together and look at all those complexities of the increasing homeless population, that is a positive thing," Burger says.
Mayor Mack says he will meet with the board members of the homeless task force within the next two weeks to discuss initial plans.
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