SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — Several citizens representing activist groups advocating for the homeless stepped up to offer public comments during the City of San Angelo’s Nov. 7 council meeting, highlighting the growing homeless crisis amid concerns about winter temperatures.
Concho Valley Homeless Planning Coalition
Public comments concerning the homeless found in the City Council’s livestream for the meeting began with Mike Burnett, chair of the Concho Valley Homeless Planning Coalition (CVHPC). He began by stating that, as frigid weather conditions roll in with the colder seasons, the coalition has begun preparations to keep San Angelo’s homeless population safe from the elements.
“From our 2023 Point In Time (PIT) Count, we have approximately 200 homeless individuals that we will need to try to provide some sort of shelter when the weather gets bad this winter,” Burnett said.
The CVHPC’s plan for this winter places focus on the use of a congregate shelter in order to house the homeless more effectively and efficiently, according to Burnett. Thanks to inter-agency cooperation between the coalition and the City, resources for the CVHPC’s “Into the Warmth” program have been made accessible, and the Carl Ray Johnson Recreation Center has been converted into the planned congregate shelter.
“As we look forward to the coming winter, we are glad that the rec center is still available and that we have had fruitful conversations about the temperature activation point to use,” Burnett said.
The shelter has also settled on a new temperature activation point — the standard used to judge whether the warming shelter’s services will be activated for overnight use. According to Burnett, the new activation point is 36 F with a 50% overnight precipitation forecast or 32 F with no overnight precipitation forecast.
The coalition’s collaboration with the City has also resulted in a working group being made to move the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter back online “sooner rather than later,” according to Burnett.
“I think we all know the importance of this shelter during the winter and throughout the year,” Burnett said. “At the point when it comes online, we’ll be able to move the congregate shelter for Into the Warmth from the Carl Ray Johnson Recreation Center to the Salvation Army.”
Burnett also touched on the upcoming Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. Lasting from Saturday, Nov. 11, to Saturday, Nov. 18, the CVHPC has a slew of events planned for the “nationwide initiative aimed at raising awareness about the critical issues of hunger and homelessness that affect communities across the country,” according to a related press release.
Concho Valley Community Action Agency
After Burnett came Sarah Negovetich, development and assessment director of the Concho Valley Community Action Agency (CVCAA). Negotvetich spoke on her visit to the Salvation Army emergency shelter, detailing how she, alongside City employees, elected officials and other citizens, saw and learned during their first-hand experience.
“I saw what happens when you have the right people in the room, and what happens is that things get done,” Negovetich said. “More than just conversations about how we’re going to get the shelter actually open, real action took place right there.”
Negovetich talked about the progress the shelter has made toward being fully operational and ready for the winter months, praising the people working to get it running and commending those who have provided the resources for the effort to take place.
“Clean-up crews are hard at work as we speak, cots have arrived, HVAC systems are getting repaired and money is being allocated,” Negovetich said. “Actions taking place, and all because the people with the drive to get it done were in the same room as the people with the means to get it done.”
Negovetich also advocated for the addition of a proposed homeless task force to the City Council’s agenda. The CVCAA and several other homeless advocate groups in San Angelo — including the CVHPC — have pushed for the topic’s addition to the agenda but have thus far seen little action done for their efforts.
“Our city has a homeless problem, and we have to do something about it,” Negoveitch said. “We appreciate the shelter — it’s going to help so many of our citizens right here in San Angelo. But the shelter is a Band-Aid solution to a problem that requires surgery.”
Afterward, Chrysanthemum Crenshaw, CVCAA’s Americorp VISTA, made comments about the impact homelessness has had on local businesses and community members. Crenshaw advocated for increased action from the City and the community at large in providing aid for the homeless in San Angelo, providing personal testimony in the process.
“As someone who has experienced the loneliness and desperation that comes from not having a safe, secure and sanitary place to sleep, and as someone who has lost a dearest loved one from the effects of homelessness, I share the burden of my neighbors, especially those out in extreme weather conditions,” Crenshaw said. “It is my belief that by supporting our fellow community members experiencing homelessness, we will be bettering San Angelo for everyone.”
Crenshaw encouraged prioritizing a continuous flow of dialogue in the community about the extreme problems homelessness incites. She also advocated for the establishment of a homeless task force, just like Burnett and Negovetich.
“Together, we can all be a part of the solution, but that can only happen when all of our voices are heard,” Crenshaw said.
Sidney Timmer, outreach and marketing director of the CVCAA, came to make comments next. She elaborated on what Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week is and personally invited all members of the City Council to attend the week’s events.
“As you’ve heard between our work and Salvation Army, things are happening, but we are hitting a wall,” Timmer said. “We need the community’s support as well as the City government’s.”