Longview mayor details homeless funding at service club visit
Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Feb. 13, 2018 at 11:25 p.m.
Money raised at a Longview gala has been used to fund a new team of two police officers for homeless outreach services and to retrofit city park benches to deter sleeping on them.
The update on about $250,000 coming from January's Go-Giver Gala was among the topics related to city homelessness that Mayor Andy Mack discussed Tuesday at a Longview Rotary Club meeting.
Mack also asked residents to refrain from supporting panhandlers and transients.
"The people that stay on the corner and taking money from you all and from me and leaving our town are killing our homeless population," he said. "They're taking away money from people that need it and putting it in their pockets. We want them to go. We don't want them here."
On Thursday, the Longview City Council accepted placing donations from the Jan. 6 gala into a municipal fund.
Council members will decide exactly how to spend those funds, but a majority of the money is devoted to a homeless outreach services team within the Longview Police Department, Mack said.
The team is made up of two officers added to the department's staff.
They've operated since Jan. 1 from the Longview Train Depot on Pacific Avenue and have established contacts with local homeless people, shelters and camps.
About $30,000 of the $250,000 has been used to retrofit municipal park benches with armrests and other features to make them less enticing to people seeking to sleep on them, Mack said.
In the fall, the City Council passed ordinances that included outlawing sleeping and lounging in public areas, such as parks.
Mack also stressed that volunteer and mentorship opportunities abound for residents who want to help the city's homeless population.
He encouraged people to distribute outreach bags or get involved through the city's website by going to longviewtexas.gov and clicking on the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness page.
Outreach bags of foods, toiletries and other items are available to give to homeless people in lieu of money at either Longview Community Ministries at 506 N. Second St. or the city's Partners in Prevention agency at 140 E. Tyler St., he said.
"This is an issue that affects all of us, and so it's an issue that needs to be addressed," Mack said. "It takes a number of individuals coming together to collaborate."
The city's homelessness initiatives — including the modified park benches — were borne from ideas spawned by a 30-plus-member task force assembled by Mack nearly one year ago.
Among the ideas was a work program the city began in November to help homeless people earn money by cleaning various locations throughout Longview.