A 'hand up' for local homeless

A new non-profit group being formed in Pauls Valley is trying to figure out how to “give a hand up” not out to the homeless and others in need around town these days.

The mission of the Hope for Tomorrow group, made up of local residents, is to come up with tangible ways of helping a growing number of people in need, namely those without a place they can call home.

Bonnie Meisel, local city council member and volunteer with several groups reaching out to help, led a meeting earlier this week.

“What do we see here locally,” said Meisel, who is for now just helping to get this new non-profit group organized. “What do we want to happen here locally. There is a great need.

“There's the true homeless that show up at the Samaritans food pantry. I consider two or three homes coming together and having to live under one roof as the kind of homeless I see the most.

“There's also an encampment of homeless around here.

“How do we want to help those in need. We need to start by forming this non-profit.”

Meisel told those attending the Monday evening meeting local pastors Bruce Ford and Diane Pruitt have been getting out there talking to some of the homeless in the Pauls Valley area hoping to find out what kind of services they need.

A fellow local pastor, Neil Barlow, said the Pauls Valley Ministerial Alliance has been offering help to more than just the homeless for some time.

Despite that help, such as putting people up in a local hotel or getting them a bus ticket, he stresses more is needed to start addressing the needs.

“The number seems to be increasing,” Barlow said about the homeless in and around PV.

“Some cities get rid of their homeless problem by putting them on a bus and that often runs out in Ardmore or Pauls Valley.”

He says folks like these are typically going to the Delta Community Action office in PV, the Samaritans food pantry and the local police station looking for some help.

“Right now we're just putting band aids on the problem. Our next challenge is to go beyond that.”

According to Barlow, the number of homeless was “pretty significant” in Pauls Valley during last winter's stretch of extreme sub-zero temperatures.

“Our only option was to put them in a hotel room. We didn't really have a go-to.”

The first step in finding answers appears to be forming this new non-profit group as the process is already underway. Expected to come next month is an election of board members.

What could come after that is to start looking at providing some sort of temporary services on a quarterly basis, such as health and dental clinics, maybe even have a temporary shelter as a “plan for the winter.”

Meisel added the group had previously talked about the possibility of converting one of Pauls Valley's two old school buildings not being used right now into a shelter for the homeless.

Even if the Jefferson and Jackson buildings weren't set for demolition the idea wouldn't have worked because a lot of money was needed to operate a facility of this kind.

“This is something that's really needed,” Becky Warren said about the help for those left homeless.

“A lot of people are stuck on not knowing what to do. I'll never forget the help they gave me,” she said about a tough time she once had in her own life.

“A lot of people are struggling. We've got to make it where people can get some help.

“There's a lot of people in this town that need help. They don't know what to do or where to turn.”

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