County needs to offer shelter for women
Homelessness is not just a personal problem. It’s a community problem that needs to be addressed, a Carbon County resident told county commissioners Thursday.
During the commissioners’ meeting, Robert Jacobs, a Democratic candidate for commissioner, approached the board to talk about starting a committee to tackle the issue of homelessness, which has been brought into the spotlight recently after a 55-year-old woman was found living in the Carbon Plaza Mall.
Jacobs briefly told the story of Yvonne, a homeless woman who was forced to live in the mall after being evicted from her late father’s home after it was foreclosed upon.
“Many people think Yvonne doesn’t fit the profile as homeless,” Jacobs said. “I disagree with that. This is a person who doesn’t have an addiction, doesn’t have mental health issues. She is someone who has a serious problem with physical health (lymphedema) and someone with serious life circumstances.”
Recently, a group of concerned residents, spearheaded by Christine LeClair, has made it their mission to help Yvonne and has been able to secure housing for her until at least the end of March.
The problem with this story, Jacobs pointed out, is that as LeClair called shelter after shelter for Yvonne, she was hitting walls.
“There are no resources for women in Carbon County,” he said. “There is a shelter for men, a very good one, in Carbon County. There is a shelter for families and there are shelters for cats and dogs, but we absolutely have nothing for women in Carbon County. ... We are sending a message to women in our community by not having the resources available for them.”
He suggested creating a private-public partnership committee to begin addressing the issue of homelessness across the board, pointing out that he believes the problem is larger than the homelessness count results showed earlier this year.
“We are underserving the community and I don’t think we have a handle on the true amount of homelessness in Carbon County,” Jacobs said.
Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein agreed, saying that the time of the year the homeless count occurs is in the middle of winter when these people are probably finding shelter with family or are couch surfing to stay warm.
He asked Jacobs if he would be willing to head the committee because of his human services background if one was formed.
Jacobs said he would co-chair a committee with someone from the public sector, but noted that the public sector is important in making any progress in fixing the problem.
“Homeless is often looked at as a separate issue. It’s not,” he said. “Every department, this is my belief, within human services here in the county ... every one of them either directly or indirectly is dealing with homelessness in their daily work and so that’s why I believe it has to be a public-private partnership.”
The board of commissioners all agreed that something must be done and plan to have further discussion to find a way to form a committee that could build a resource base for the homeless of Carbon County.