The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Fort Worth mayor helps homeless

By Frankie Farrar-helm/reporter

Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief’s goal is to make homelessness a short-term, non-recurring issue in the city he governs by 2016.

“Now is the time to end chronic homelessness in Fort Worth,” Moncrief said. “Doing nothing just won’t cut it.”

Moncrief joined Karen Fisler and Stevie Hansen of Mental Health and Mental Retardation of Tarrant County, and Murray Fortner, chairman of psychology and sociology on NE Campus, for Homelessness: A Community Issue held last month.

Moncrief, a graduate of Tarleton State University, served 12 years as a Texas state senator and two years in the Texas House of Representatives. When he was elected mayor in 2003 and again in 2007, Moncrief made homelessness one of his first major issues to tackle.

Moncrief led a group of 22 people around the country in October 2008 to explore homeless communities. The homelessness he saw in Los Angeles — where the 70,000 people without homes could fill Bass Hall more than 20 times over — shocked him, he said.

“That shifting seed of hopeless, homeless humanity brought tears,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘I will never let this happen to the city of Fort Worth.’”

Moncrief created a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Fort Worth, and, as a result, 2,500 who were once without homes are now housed, he said. Of that number, 260 who lived in emergency shelters were also housed.

“It costs less to provide a roof over their head and wrap them around services than to perpetuate lives of misery,” he said.

Stevie Hansen, chief of the addiction services division for Mental Health and Mental Retardation of Tarrant County, said the organization has been helping the city of Fort Worth meet the goals of Moncrief’s plan with a program called the Project in Assisting the Transition from Homelessness.

Also known as PATH, the federally funded program provides outreach, engagement and transitional case management.

The program’s four staff members perform such tasks as going to shelters to talk to people and driving around town in a van to search for homeless people to give them water, snacks, clean clothes, toys and/or bus passes.

Other services offered by the program include addiction recovery, family unification, transportation, life and cooking skills, interviewing and counseling and services for veterans, who make up a significant number of the homeless population.

“Twenty-three percent of homeless are veterans,” Hansen said. “There are 15,967 homeless veterans in Texas.”

Mental Health and Mental Retardation of Tarrant County worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase the number of beds in Liberty House, a place that offers veterans a place to live for up to two years.

The goal of Liberty House is to give homeless veterans residential stability, increased income and greater self-determination, said Karen Fisler, team leader for PATH.

Katherine Anderson, a NE Campus student, attended the panel discussion to get more knowledge about homelessness. Anderson has volunteered to help homeless people through her church and the St. Vincent DePaul Society, another outreach program.

Anderson said Moncrief was passionate about what he’s doing for the homeless.

“It’s great that programs are being implemented,” she said. “I hope it succeeds.”

TCC student Jennifer Dietz  also wanted to know more about what is being done to end homelessness in Fort Worth.

Dietz, who is studying to be a social worker, said the presentation met her expectations.

“I finally have some insight on homelessness in Tarrant County,” she said. “The mayor’s 10-year plan shows a lot of promise and dedication.”

Jackie Booth, another TCC student, attended the discussion to further her knowledge on child homelessness. Booth is taking early childhood and middle school education classes involving safety procedures in schools and health and nutrition for children. The classes focus on the overall wellness of the child.

“What I learned wasn’t direct to child education, but a lot of it had to do with homeless women and their children,” Booth said. “These programs help place homeless children in schools, and that gives me the opportunity to help teach them.”

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