First phase nearly complete in Bell County homeless plan

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 7:37 PM CDT
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BELL COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) - A plan for a multi-city solution to decrease homelessness is now getting off the ground.

The first phase of the Bell County plan is being worked through, and city officials and others are nearly complete. This will help specifically determine what issues need to be prioritized when it comes to fixing the homeless issue in bell county.

Graduating from homelessness is the overall plan officials want to implement throughout Bell County.

“Our goal has to move from taking care of you, to helping you exit homelessness,” said Robert Marbut Jr., the consultant hired to help the county.

Marbut is a San Antonio-based consultant who has worked more than two decades, providing communities with solutions for homelessness.

“Everybody at some point always asks me, what’s the biggest reason for homelessness,” said Marbut. “It’s untreated severe mental illness with substance abuse.”

In the last two months he and others in the county have been working to survey and gather data from the homeless population and those who work with them.

It is a process that was started at the beginning of the year to tackle all of the county’s homeless issues.

“Definitely after COVID-19, our homeless numbers increased,” said Rashawn Smith, Killeen’ special projects coordinator.

Part of Smith’s job is to help organize things in the part of Bell County closest to Killeen.

“So our strategic plan is not only a homeless plan, it is a homeless and mental health strategic plan,” Smith said. “And see how we can cohesively address that.”

In making visits with those who work around the homeless populations, Marbut said the biggest thing that needs to be addressed is Killeen and Temple’s high chronically-homeless population.

“What that tells me is, we’re doing things to service people experiencing homelessness,” said Marbut. “But we don’t have the philosophy or the system that says, we’re going to try to get you out of homelessness.”

But at this point in time, a specific solution is not completely drawn up yet.

“Probably in the next 30 days, we’re going to have a very precise understanding of what our problem is,” said Marbut.

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