Killeen: Shuttered school could serve as day center for the homeless

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) The latest numbers on homelessness in the region indicate that more people may be living on the streets in 2019.

(Photo by Chelsea Edwards)

The Point in Time Homeless Survey is done every year and provides a snapshot of the number of homeless people throughout Central Texas.

The number can determine the amount of funding outreach organizations receive.

The Central Texas Homeless Coalition hasn’t released official results for 2019, but the preliminary headcount of the homeless in Bell, Coryell, Lampasas and Hamilton counties comes to 412.

Kyle Moore of the Killeen Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team headed up this year’s survey, which is conducted over a 24-hour period.

The count for 2018 was around 325, and Moore says the bump is most likely because of better information teams had this year which helped them find people who are staying outside of shelters.

He says it’s tough to get an accurate number when many homeless don’t have a designated place to go, but now, several organizations are joining together to work on a long-term solution that would help the homeless get back on their feet.

"We want to create a place that's going to remove all the barriers that we can,” he says.

“So if somebody's got an issue with getting an ID, or somebody's got an issue with getting health insurance or mental health care, we want to create an environment where it is conducive to go ahead and make that happen."
They're calling it the "Fairway Middle School Project".

The school, which was shut down in 2009, was last used in 2017 as a shelter for Hurricane Harvey evacuees.

The proposed project would turn the school into a day center where the homeless can access resources to get housing, employment and more.

They also hope that by relocating the homeless from the streets in downtown Killeen, they'll get support from local business owners.

Shop owners have complained in the past about the homeless hanging out near storefronts and leaving trash in the area.

Part of the problem is that many homeless people have no place to go during the day when shelters are closed.

“It's been a lot of people who come to me and say, ‘Hey I wish we had a place we can go because the way I look or because of the way I smell, they don't let me come in and use the restroom, or they don't want to let me come in there and eat,” says Moore.

“If we get [the center] running, and we do it correctly, I think it'll sell itself. So you got a place to go and hang out. You can go sit on the couch; you can feel like a person,” he adds.

The outreach organizations are using Austin's ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless) as a model.

Instead of gathering everyone twice a year for triage or resource events, help would always be available.

However, the proposed project is still in its early stages.

The first major meeting was held Wednesday night.

Organizers say next steps include securing grant funding and an agreement with KISD.

In the meantime, people can help by donating hygiene items, socks, coats, underwear, shoes, and money which pays for birth certificates and identification that allow those in need to get jobs.

Those interested in helping may contact KPD’s Homeless Outreach Team.