Homelessness coalition continues steadfast mission to help those in need
In the summer of 2013, a unique group of organizations joined forces in order to provide assistance and aid to those individuals affected by homelessness. In the year’s time since the different organizations came together for the good of service — all specializing in different areas, yet combining forces for a common goal — they’ve already accomplished many goals that will, as a result, help those that need it in and around Lamar County.
To address the needs properly for those affected by homelessness and provide a united front, the help of the Texas Homeless Network was sought, and with their mentoring and advice, an extensive group of key stakeholders was assembled to begin to find permanent solutions for addressing our community’s needs. This assembled group has come to be known officially as the Lamar County Homelessness Coalition.
By definition, the noun ‘coalition’, means, in short, an alliance for combined action. For this coalition, the action is addressing the needs of the homeless in order to develop strategies and plans to support those experiencing the struggle.
From their newly released brochure, it is said that, “The Lamar County Homelessness Coalition plans, develops and implements comprehensive and coordinated strategies to assist individuals and families with homeless prevention, safe shelter, critical housing and compassionate services, through information, funding and networking.”
The new brochure also says that “Paris and Lamar County homelessness services have an extensive history of mismanagement, tragedy and corruption.
As a result, the incurring mistrust has led to a public perception that homelessness is not a real issue in our small community. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but because of this misperception, agencies providing services to these individuals have seen an increasing loss in funding from the community.
The member organizations (stakeholders) that make up the coalition include, but are not limited to, The New Hope Center, The Salvation Army, Calvary Chapel-Paris, Christ Community Church, CASA for KIDS, 211 TX CanHelp, ETCADA, Lakes Regional MHMR, SAFE-T, Lamar County Sheriff’s Office, Christians in Action, Co-Ministry, Habitat for Humanity, Lamar Avenue Church of Christ, United Way of Lamar County, Lamar County Human Resources Council, Living Word Missionary Baptist Church, Paris ISD, eParisExtra.com, Paris Housing Authority, Paris ISD, Paris Junior College, Paris Regional Medical Center, RAM Foundation, Paris Police Department, and many other caring and compassionate individuals.
Since its inception last year, the coalition has achieved several notable accomplishments, such as, convening regular, monthly stakeholder meetings to address and take action on the issues of homelessness in our community, setup Texas Homeless Network (THN) training (“Continuum of Care” and “Maximizing Collaborations”) that over fifty key stakeholders attended, developed a local relationship with the agency (THN) that administers federal funding related to housing and homelessness, developed by-laws, and established executive committees to work on governance and organization.
Head Start and the Paris/Lamar County Health Department — as part of the coalition — have identified, published and distributed ‘local services guides’ in order to conduct an Unmet Needs Assessment.
And, for the first time ever in our area, the coalition performed a Point-in-Time Count in January of this year, which is critical in helping us to understand the scope and breadth of homelessness in our community. In a ‘nut-shell’ the PiT count is much like the homeless persons census, providing statistics and numbers for evaluation and strategic planning, so that they can be addressed and fixed.
Within the group, there have been committees formed to identify availability of and gaps in services. These committees oversee issues such as:
- Prevention/Rental Assistance
- Men’s shelter
- Data Collection
- Youth (boys and girls) long/short term assistance
- Transitional housing for men, women and children
- Emergency/Imminent Danger sheltering
What can you do to help?
There are many great opportunities to offer your time and services as a volunteer for the coalition. Some of the services a volunteer could provide are as follows:
- Serve on a committee within the coalition
- Transporting clients in agency vehicle
- Job readiness coaching
- Financial literacy
- Physical activity
- Encouraging/teaching health eating
- Prepare and paint houses of low-income individuals
- Help to build affordable housing
- And many more
Donation Drive List:
There are so many things that we overlook, overuse and take advantage of that could drastically help needy and homeless individuals of our community. Then, there are also things that could help to begin changing their lives, as well as their outlook on life in general. The Lamar County Homelessness Coalition has a ‘Donation Drive List’ and are encouraging the public to take part in donating items to help those in need. Some of the items on the list are:
Consumable hygiene products:
- Toothpaste and tooth brushes
- Feminine hygiene products
- Hand sanitizer
- Shaving lotion
- Bath soap
- Hair-care products
- Laundry detergent
- Dishwasher detergent
- Paper towels
- Dish soap
- Toilet paper
- Paper cups
- Gift/money cards for gas
- Seasonal items: fans, blankets, coats, hats
- New clothing items: underwear and socks — all sizes, both male and female
- Recycled items: newspaper, cardboard boxes, aluminum, etc.
As always with organization coalitions such as this one, funding for programs, implementation, daily operations, publicity/awareness, and other operational expenses is always a critical factor in the success of the entity. For as much as it is critical, it is also usually scarce, so another great way to help is to give funds for the cause — any amount, any time. Send any monetary donations to:
Lamar County Homelessness Coalition
c/o United Way of Lamar County
PO Box 1
Paris, Texas 75461
These type of coalitions should get their biggest support, both financially and in service, from the community in which it serves. Without the community’s support, there is little chance that it will be able to meet its goals and actually effect the number of homeless in and around Paris and Lamar County.
Those in need are counting on this community just as much as they are counting on this organization, because without both actively involved, it will be hard for the Lamar County Homelessness Coalition to stand.
If you know anyone that could benefit from the services that the coalition provides, please remember to remind them that you can dial 211, which will provide assistance information by zip code.
If you come across someone that is homeless, or if you are in need yourself, please call the New Hope Center of Paris at (903) 783-0353.
For any additional information, do not hesitate to call (903) 784-6642.
By Josh Allen, eParisExtra