With winter approaching the situation for some in the Denison homeless community is looking worse than ever according to Michelle Blackmon, a person familiar with the situation.
Blackmon, a member of the Homeless Empowerment Action Team's board of directors, said right now the people are going anywhere they can to stay warm.
HEAT is a coalition of 16 area churches each doing its part to assist in any way it can.
“We had a hope hub where we housed people, but it was closed once the land was sold,” Blackmon said. “People are struggling. We're continuing to look for temporary solutions that will serve the city and the homeless population. There are certain rules and desires of the city we have to abide. We want to provide better opportunities for those in need.”
Blackmon said conditions for those she deals with have not improved. For one reason or another, several are not qualified to seek help from places like the Grayson County Shelter. There are requirements for the safety of the residents at such places, and Blackmon said some of the factors related to safety measures are in the realm of things that individuals in the homeless population can't overcome.
She was reluctant to go into specific details.
The majority of the people HEAT interacts with are local. Most either are from Grayson County or have family here, Blackmon said.
“As far as HEAT goes our primary focus is trying to meet their physical needs,” Blackmon said. “If you are homeless, you need essentials like food. We have longer term goals, but at this time, this is where we are at. We are working with a local realtor to find a location that would be suitable to meet the needs of the population, as well as, meet the city needs to operate out of to take the burden off the facilities currently helping.
Blackmon said each person's situation is unique. There isn't a good way to track the numbers but she said one metric is the number of people that HEAT feeds daily. That number is close to 60 she said. Then there are the 30-60 people who show up once a week to get a shower.
She said the conditions of the people she has regular contact with hasn't improved much. For some things are worse now without a temporary place to stay to get out of the cold. The holidays are also emotional for the people who have to forgo their normal holiday traditions.
Last spring, the city of Denison began cracking down on the homeless populations that had been amassing at certain public spaces around the city. A homeless camp that had been a hub for many was closed. Since then a community outreach effort known as the Homeless Empowerment Action Team began looking for ways to help those in need. With winter approaching they are looking for new ways to help house the individuals that aren't finding adequate shelter elsewhere.