Editorial: Homeless task force discussions may be aided by your thoughts
May 16, 2017 at 11:18 p.m.
Updated May 17, 2017 at 11:40 a.m.
For the past few months, nearly three dozen members of our community have been meeting to discuss and come up with ideas about ways for Longview to address the troubling issues surrounding homelessness in our city.
We appreciated what Mayor Andy Mack said last week in sharing some of the thoughts the group so far has kicked around: "These ideas spur on critical and cumulative thinking, and that's what it takes," he said. "It takes a broad stroke to paint this picture."
We agree. And the broader the stroke the better.
Among the task force's concerns is finding ways to care for those less fortunate among us without creating an environment of dependence. We are not sure that has been happening, but nonetheless are pleased the discussions are taking place. The group of individuals who are involved bring to the table a broad range of relevant experiences in working with and considering such issues.
Some of the ideas the group has considered so far seem to make sense. They include reviews of ordinances to determine what forces officials can bring to bear on the homeless population, which laws are enforceable and which might violate an individual's rights. Such review can be important, given the task force reportedly is discussing so-called "solicitation-free zones" where panhandling might be limited.
There also has been discussion of a homeless outreach team of police officers who would try to help homeless people to places and resources that could help them, of a job program to offer employment opportunities, and of increased access to transportation.
While the ideas so far presented seem fairly obvious, we are pleased to hear them and to know they are being discussed.
We are disappointed, however, that the group's meetings are taking place in private, with task force members being encouraged not to share publicly what they are talking about. That flies in the face of what we know about how government works best, which is in the light of day with room for discussion and input from all.
So while we may not be able to tell you as much as we would like about what the task force is doing each week, we can certainly help each of you share your ideas with its members. To that end, we are publishing here the list of members that was made public a few months ago. We are certain any of them would be pleased to hear what you think as they continue their work.
Task force members
Eric Burger, Hiway 80 Rescue Mission
Helen Johnson, House of Hope
Linda Cunningham, Newgate Mission
Capt. Mark Jacobs, Salvation Army
Alan Johnson, Jesus Burger ministry
Janice Bunt, Caring and Sharing
Johnnie Johnson, Community Outreach Mission
Doris Ramaly, Longview Interfaith Hospitality Network
Shannon Trest, Women's Center of East Texas
Robin Fruia, Longview Community Ministries
Andrea Dollahite, Made to Love Ministries
Jeff Borgwardt, Ministerial Alliance
Karen Holt, North East Texas Homeless Consortium
Holly Fuller, Partners in Prevention
Sgt. James Bettis, Longview Police Department
Brenda Day-Bevis, D.O.R.S.
Lewis Thompson, Ministerial Alliance
Inman White, Community Healthcore
Linda Oyer, East Texas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Ron Short, Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center
Anthony Brooks, Longview Regional Medical Center
Jeff Brown, Wellness Pointe
Tim Wiseman, Wiseman Ministries
Scott Lewis, Longview Transit
Donna Sharp, Greater Longview United Way
Josh Tubb, Gregg County Sheriff's Office
Michael Black, JBA Financial Services
Cary Hilliard, First Baptist Church
Murray Moore, former Longview mayor
Hank Hester, Longview Fire Department
Cheteva Marshall, Longview Housing Authority
Kevin Marshall, Gregg County Veterans Services