Panel on the homeless begins effort by exploring who they are trying to help

A Grand Junction City Council subcommittee formed to discuss local homeless issues had its first meeting last week.

So far, the subcommittee’s only move has been to decide to have more meetings.

The goal of the subcommittee, according to Mayor Teresa Coons, is to separate the presumed majority of homeless people, those down on their luck and seeking support during tough economic times, from those living outdoors long-term or from other parts of the country.

Coons said she would like to survey the long-term side of the homeless population to see where they are from, what attracted them to Grand Junction if they’re from out of town, and why they’ve remained here.

It’s important to know more about this population and its size in order to know best how to help them, according to Council member Tom Kenyon, who serves on the subcommittee with Coons and Council member Bonnie Beckstein.

“I think we’re still in the dark,” he said.

Coons said she would like to study how other communities have succeeded in helping various kinds of homeless people.

For example, homeless people who have the tools and life skills to return to self-sufficiency are easier to help with existing services, Coons said.

“There are probably some people that will never be self-sufficient. So what solutions do we provide for that population?” she said.

The council also will discuss homelessness during a retreat today and Saturday. Other discussion topics at the retreat will include medical marijuana, the city budget, traffic, and what was gleaned from the listening tours about public safety facilities.

The City Council is not the only agency delving deeper into the issue of homelessness. Some newer efforts include:

Grand Valley Peace and Justice, which hosted Beyond Charity, a summit for local agencies and advocates in May about developing a 10-year plan to eliminate barriers to self-sufficiency.

Grand Valley Peace and Justice Director Karen Sjoberg said the meeting focused on long-term solutions to end homelessness, and she expects follow-up meetings in which people can discuss those solutions, which will go into the 10-year plan.

Bridges Out of Poverty, a group of several local agencies searching for ways to help the homeless.

The effort was launched in 2008 after Mesa County completed a survey of households identifying people who have enough money to support their families’ needs and those who don’t. Mesa County Department of Human Services Director Len Stewart said member agencies use the study’s findings to try to help treat the sources of homelessness.


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