Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Progress starts by knowing where we are
Homelessness is an issue people face worldwide. From New York City park benches to the slums of India or Brazil, our world is full of those left to find their way on the streets.
Victoria and the Crossroads are not immune from this global crisis. We have our share of homeless individuals walking our streets, whether they are the panhandlers on street corners or sleeping in their vehicles every night.
The existence of this problem is undeniable, but what can be done to combat it? First, we must be aware of how big the problem is in our area. On Jan. 24, the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition lead the Point In Time Homeless Count in Calhoun, Goliad, Gonzales, Lavaca, DeWitt, Jackson and Victoria counties. Volunteers handed out surveys and collected information from people who either are homeless or may be soon.
According to Kim Pickens, president of the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition, the information takes several weeks to sort and filter through. The surveys must be checked for duplicates and to make sure those classified as homeless fit the requirements. The information is then sent to the Texas Homeless Network, then on to the federal level for housing and urban development information.
The homeless count is an important part of determining where the Crossroads stands in terms of poverty and housing. By taking a candid look at what we are faced with, our communities are able to plan steps to improve the quality of life for those affected by homelessness.
"It showed there is a great need in our community to deal with not just homelessness, but poverty in general," Pickens said.
She pointed to the Wednesday before the count, when volunteers from the Episcopal churches in Victoria, including Trinity and St. Francis Episcopal, made about 250 sandwiches to hand out at the Pine Street Community Center. Members of the Trinity Episcopal Church Sandwich Ministry also make about 200 sandwiches every Sunday night that are given out at Crossroads Apartments. Pickens said the sandwiches on that Wednesday were gone within 30 minutes, illustrating the "overwhelming" number of people who are going hungry in the Victoria community.
We applaud the volunteers and Homeless Coalition members who took part in this important community effort to find and count the homeless population of the Crossroads. We know poverty is a problem found everywhere, and we encourage members of the community to find ways to get involved and help combat homelessness in the Crossroads.
On Thursday the Homeless Coalition plans to meet and set some goals, Pickens said. Among the topics will be a calendar of events to increase community awareness, as well as speakers who will come to the area. She would also like to see a community garden, where hungry residents can come and help grow food they can harvest and feed themselves.
We encourage members of the communities where these homeless counts took place to look for ways to help combat poverty in the Crossroads. Whether it's a onetime donation to a coalition, taking part in an event to raise awareness or just giving someone a bottle of water on a hot day, anyone can make a difference.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.