Every year, the homeless count drives home an undeniable message – the number of homeless people in Victoria is on the rise. More needs to be done to help find shelter for the homeless.

The count, called Point in Time was held Jan. 24. People found 109 unsheltered residents in Victoria, up from 34 last year, and 16 in Calhoun County, double the number from last year.

The more-than-triple increase in homeless in one year is alarming.

That number does not include the people who are living at shelters like Perpetual Help Home, Mid-Coast Family Services women’s crisis shelter or Promise Pointe. Each of these shelters have specific needs they are meeting.

The Crossroads is without a shelter for men, women and families, a staggering fact that people who work with the homeless are made sadly aware of daily. Their hands are tied because there is no place to send those seeking shelter from the winter cold and rain or simply a place to sleep.

The Salvation Army shelter, which has been closed since Hurricane Harvey badly damaged it on Aug. 25, 2017, is nearing completion of repairs but is not ready to reopen.

Once it is open, the most it will be able to shelter is 18 men a night.

Obviously, more space is needed.

A lot of discussion is going on in the community about just that.

One idea being discussed by the Salvation Army advisory board is transforming the former thrift store at the shelter site into a shelter for men and then transforming the remaining building shelters for families and women.

While it sounds like a good option, a lot more discussion and planning would have to happen before that could become a reality. The Salvation Army’s new commander, Capt. Kenny Jones, who starts work this week, would have to buy into the option and get the planning and funding set up.

Numerous other options are sure to be discussed among the many caring groups in this community, including the Victoria Homeless Coalition, Mid-Coast Family Services, Perpetual Help Home, Promise Pointe and the numerous churches.

Our community’s priority has to be getting the homeless off the streets and into safe, warm shelters so they can have hot meals and dry places to sleep and can get needed medical attention. This will help get them prepared to find a job and learn to become self-sustaining again.

Leaving the homeless to live in open pastures, under bridges or in broken-down vehicles is not how people, no matter how poor they are, should live.

We, as a community, have to step forward to do our part. We need to support the Salvation Army through monetary donations, volunteering or shopping at the thrift store. We need to remember it has been an important part of our community since 1958, and it needs our continued support.

We also need to support other shelter projects and the agencies who operate them. With these organizations, there can never be too many volunteers or too many donations.

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This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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