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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. -- (WDRB) How to deal with the growing problem of homelessness -- that was the purpose of a packed public meeting today in Jeffersonville.
Homelessness has become a big issue in southern Indiana's small cities, particularly in Jeffersonville, where the proximity to a major interstate makes it a magnet for the homeless.
City officials say they are trying to balance compassion with public health and safety.
It's the coldest day in two years. But for Jack Blanton and Carol Mcghee, it's just another day of survival on the streets of Jeffersonville. They live in a tent off I-65. "I just got to find a job, but it's hard for me to find a job because I didn't graduate from high school and I don't have my GED," said Blanton.
"It's hard trying to start over from scratch. But we got put into sticky situations, and we just try to make the best out of it," said McGhee
The problem of homelessness is only growing here in Jeffersonville. Now the city is taking steps to do something about it. "We want to find something that makes an improvement," Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore told a crowd gathered at City Hall.
Jack and Carol were among those who packed Jeffersonville City Hall for the first meeting of the Jeffersonville-Clarksville homeless task force.
All agree, the issues are complex, as are the solutions, from affordable housing, to substance abuse programs, to job training and mental health treatment.
"Homelessness isn't going to go away unless we as a city start to plan effectively for poverty. Because that's what it's about," said Barb Anderson, executive director of Haven House.
"I would like to see even the homeless being more involved in trying to help each other," added Birgitta Lindsey, who used to be homeless.
"We want to see them cared for with the dignity and respect that's due a human being," said Rev. Jim Moon, pastor of Park United Methodist Church.
But Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore makes it clear it's going to take public and private partnerships to attack the problem.
"It's not a fix the government is going to come up with. It's a fix that's going to be done by volunteers in our community," said Moore.
And It's not going to be a quick fix. "It's just bringing everyone together at the table and working on this issue, and I believe we can get this done," said Paul Stensrud of Exit 0 Ministries.
"Once we find the resources to get the help for the people who are out here, then I think it will make everything a lot better," said Carol McGhee.
Mayor Moore admits the city made a mistake in the way it handled a homeless sweep last November.
The next step is a steering committee to bring all the various agencies together. Moore says he wants to offer some guidance and then get out of the way.