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Area organizations form Hays County Local Homeless Coalition

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Hays County Local Homeless Coalition formally established a local homeless coalition for San Marcos and Hays County during a recent meeting.

The coalition received guidance from Jen Beardsley, the LHC specialist from the Texas Homeless Network. Over 50 members attended the meeting on Nov. 6, where they worked to adopt and amend bylaws, establish committees and nominate and elect officers.

In the meeting, Beardsley gave a presentation about the different ways in which a homeless coalition can engage with the community as well as raise awareness for people who are experiencing homelessness. The meeting also featured presentations about Coordinated Entry Planning by Katie Martinez, Systems Change Specialist at the Texas Homeless Network, and a presentation about Code Compliance and direct-action projects with Shanna O’Brien, from the City of San Marcos.

According to Beardsley, an LHC is an organization that comprises agencies that represent various sectors within a community, including law enforcement, affordable housing developers, hospitals, faith-based organizations, veterans providers, advocates, school districts, universities, social servicers, mental health agencies, universities and government.

“The goal of an LHC is to provide a platform to share a bird’s eye view of resources and of the people affected by homelessness,” Beardsley said. “It’s awesome that you have so much representation here because it really does take a village.”

Examples of LHC activities are conducting a Point-In-Time (PIT) Count, which the Hays County LHC aims to do in January 2021, and establishing a system of Coordinated Entry to better serve people who are experiencing homelessness.

Martinez stated in her presentation that Coordinated Entry Planning is a process in which people experiencing homelessness can access resources. She described the process as a kind of triage situation in which a person enters the system and receives an assessment of their immediate needs. The benefits of coordinated entry is that the system allows access to all available services while retaining a client’s history, ensuring that their needs are met as quickly as possible.

O’Brien, who works with the City of San Marcos Code Compliance and Environmental Health team, spoke about the city’s efforts to address the present situation for people experiencing homelessness within San Marcos.

“People were saying, ‘We need to get out there and clean up these homeless camps,” O’Brien said. “That’s not an effective and humanitarian way to address this situation.” O’Brien added that team members Jeff Quimby and Mark Schupp have been active within the community, helping meet immediate needs.

“Now that the city’s involved, this is such a great thing,” O’Brien said. “(My team is) out there every day, boots on the ground, asking what can we do right now to help? Right now, we need to help folks get IDs, food, clothing, bus passes. Sometimes it’s as simple as they’re kind of passing through, they’ve got family and friends who can help, but they’ve just got to get there.”

O’Brien also said that they assist with securing places like mailboxes where people can store their valuables during the day, and that they will be hosting a blanket and coat drive later in November as the weather begins to get colder.

The Hays County LHC convened with the formation of committees, particularly one that will focus on January’s PIT Count.

“It’s really important to have monthly meetings at least until the PIT count is complete,” said Tegan Debrock, co-chair nominee and co-founder of HOME Center of Central Texas. “With the PIT count, it’s not just counting or numbers. We’re giving supplies and aid to people living in their cars or hotels. But more than that, we’re having conversations with people. We hear the needs, we see the struggle, we build that trust. That can result in more ideas for problems that we have. Not only do we know the demographics and the data, but through getting that information, we understand the needs of the community, building that empathy and understanding. It’s a really great place for people who want to help but don’t know how.”

Debrock went on to explain that the coalition aim is to not to just treat homelessness, but to work toward preventing it. “This is more sustained action,” Debrock said. “We don’t want to get stuck in the structural organization. We want to get into the 'boots on the ground' work of helping people.”

The next meeting for the Hays County LHC will be on Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. on Zoom. An agenda and Zoom link will be sent out closer to that date. For more information about how to become involved with helping people experiencing homelessness in San Marcos and Hays County, visit Homecentertx.org or Facebook.com/HOMECenterofCentralTexas.chollister@sanmarcosrecord.com

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666