City working to address homelessness

Committee focusing on homelessness in Lubbock

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Since July, the Lubbock Homelessness Committee has been investigating causes and resources for the homeless population in our city and ways to end panhandling.

David Langston, the vice chair of this committee, said although Lubbock does not have big homeless population, it is growing. One thing the committee has considered, he said, is stricter enforcement of ordinances already on the books.

"Once you begin enforcement, what do you do with the people that are arrested?" Langston said. "We've talked about, we call it a diversion center, it would be a center where basically they have the opportunity to not be placed in the county jail or the city jail. Instead, go through some sort of deferred adjudication program, where they would have to meet certain criteria and obtaining jobs."

There are not enough mental health resources for those who are struggling with addiction or other mental health issues, Langston said. The committee is also considering petitioning the state legislature for more funds to address this.

Chad Wheeler, the executive director of Open Door in Lubbock, said people cannot be arrested out of homelessness.

"We're very fortunate in Lubbock that our local law enforcement gets that," Wheeler said. "We understand that if you just arrest someone for sleeping at a park and they go into Lubbock County, it's just costing the community a lot of money to house that person in the jail."

People in the city have become more understanding that homelessness is often not a personal choice, Wheeler said. He said if he could tell city leaders one thing, it is that "housing ends homelessness."

"If you're a neighbor and you're frustrated because of the mess in your local park, I totally get it, I sympathize with that stress," Wheeler said, "but our encouragement to people, all of us, is that if we're stressed by the problem of homelessness, the only solution is housing, and if we could come together as a community to focus our efforts on providing that as a solution, then we will resolve the problems of the business owner, of the neighbors."

Langston said that is the committee's first approach. He also suggested creating a facility that is a collaborative effort between hospitals in our area to provide more mental health resources and addiction treatment. He said this could help solve the root causes of chronic homelessness.

"What we want to do is get them off the street and get the help that they need, get them the housing that they need, and find out a way to address what is causing them to be out on the streets," Langston said.

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