New task force to tackle homelessness in Jonesboro - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

New task force to tackle homelessness in Jonesboro

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – A growing population of homeless people reside in Jonesboro, so city officials have agreed to create a task force that will further study this issue.

Last week, the Jonesboro City Hall agreed to create the homeless prevention task force, which consists of 13 people who all directly work with the homeless in this area.

"We're talking about people that have direct contact with the homeless population on a day-to-day basis," said Heather Clements, the city's grants administrator. "They have firsthand knowledge of what the services are, what the lack of services is and how we proceed from here."

Clements first proposed forming this task force several months ago to Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin. The idea emerged, she says, after hearing numerous concerns from residents who were worried that there were not enough resources available to local homeless people.

With the council's approval, the task force can now begin working toward a few established goals. Those include first conducting a gaps analysis of services available to the homeless. The members can then develop a strategic plan for decreasing homelessness in Jonesboro as well as identify a host agency that can work with the city on grant funding to implement this plan.

Clements says the task force can and will accomplish all these things within a year, maybe sooner.

"Hopefully in 12 months, we'll have things wrapped not because we want to get back to our day job, that's really insensitive," she said, "but because the faster we wrap this up, the faster this population gets served wholeheartedly."

One of the task force members is executive director of Mission Outreach of Northeast Arkansas, Jamie Collins. She says forming the committee is a great idea because of an "overwhelming need."

She claims that out of the six counties that Mission Outreach serves, the biggest need is in the Jonesboro and Craighead County area.

"The larger the city, the larger the need a lot of times," Collins said.

At its shelter in Paragould, Mission Outreach currently has enough bed space for 60 people. Collins says right now about 20 percent of those beds are filled by people in Jonesboro.

"What you see on TV, the little lady pushing the car isn't what you see in Jonesboro," she said. "It's not what you see in Greene County and so each area has their own unique needs."

The homelessness task force will meet for the first time in December.

The city is also forming a community advisory board on this issue. Anyone interested in joining the board should contact Heather Clements at the Jonesboro Municipal Center.

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