New task force to tackle homelessness in Jonesboro

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

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

"We're talking about people that have direct contact withthe homeless population on a day-to-day basis," said Heather Clements, the city'sgrants 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 severalmonths ago to Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin. The idea emerged, she says, afterhearing numerous concerns from residents who were worried that there were notenough resources available to local homeless people.

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

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

"Hopefully in 12 months, we'll have things wrapped notbecause we want to get back to our day job, that's really insensitive," shesaid, "but because the faster we wrap this up, the faster this population getsserved wholeheartedly."

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

She claims that out of the six counties that MissionOutreach serves, the biggest need is in the Jonesboro and Craighead Countyarea.

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

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

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

The homelessness task force will meet for the first time inDecember.

The city is also forming a community advisory board on thisissue. Anyone interested in joining the board should contact Heather Clementsat the Jonesboro Municipal Center.

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