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Support creation of homeless shelter in Taylor County

Taylor County has a homeless problem.

As long as there is one person who sleeps in their car, who is forced to couch surf at a friend’s house, or who must trade remaining in a failed relationship for the sake of their children or to have a bed to sleep in, Taylor County has a homeless problem.

As long as there are people who fall through the cracks of the system and who lack secure and stable housing, Taylor County has a homeless problem.

The old method of dealing with homelessness, addiction, the mentally ill and others considered part of the detritus of a well-ordered society, was to put them on the first bus out of town and let them be someone else’s problem, someone else’s burden.

Jessica Mudgett and others with Taylor County Supportive Housing (TCSH) want to do something more than shift people down the highway. In her day job as director of the Taylor County Housing Authority, Mudgett sees firsthand the challenges of placing people in secure, long-term housing. She sees the barriers of background checks and lengthy waiting lists to get into subsidized housing. She sees people who have jobs but for whom scraping together the needed security deposit is a real challenge.

Rural homelessness looks different than it does in big cities. The stereotypes of bag ladies setting up camp on steam grates or panhandlers begging for change on street corners breaks down in rural America.

Here, those who live every day without the security of permanent housing blend in with the rest of the population. They are children who play with yours at school who wear the same clothes day after day. They are the woman at work who broke up with her boyfriend and is staying with friends. They are people just like the rest of us and equally deserving of compassion and respect.

TCSH is seeking the county board’s blessing to apply for federal community development block grant money designated for helping low and moderate income individuals. The money comes from the state’s closure of the county’s revolving loan fund program. Under state rules, the county has a little over a year to allocate the remaining funds on qualifying projects or it goes away.

TCSH’s goal is to purchase a residence to be converted into a shelter. Once in the shelter, the county will be able to connect people to the services they need with the goal of transitioning these individuals to permanent housing. No local tax dollars are being requested for this project.

Members of the Taylor County Board should support the creation of a homeless shelter in the county and give their blessing for TCSH to apply for the grant funds needed to purchase a building.

Ensuring people have a safe, warm residence will be an important step toward addressing the issues that led people to homelessness.