By Michael Hutchins Democrat Herald
The Sherman Police Department is taking steps to assess and determine the needs of a group that often goes unnoticed within the community. The department recently launched its own efforts to identify and count the homeless population within the city’s borders.
City officials said the city’s tally will help the department and the city better assess the state of homelessness and better prepare it to potentially help and better provide services in the future.
“We’re doing our own point-in-time count to really figure out how many people are homeless in Sherman, because you have a three-pronged problem that most people never think about,” said Sherman, executive director of public safety. said Zachary Flores.
There are three types of people who are often considered homeless at first glance, but Flores said only one of them fits the true definition.
The first group includes indigent people who are not homeless, but who can use services aimed at helping the poor, including the homeless, such as soup kitchens. The second group includes transients who are homeless, but move or travel and do not call Sherman home.
“Just because you got off the Greyhound in Sherman and you don’t have a place to stay right now, but you’re moving, doesn’t mean you’re homeless here,” Flores said.
The last group is made up of homeless people living in Sherman. Although they are the target group for the count, Flores said there are different states of homelessness, ranging from those living in shelter, potentially in a shelter or moving from house to house, to those which are not hosted.
“What we’re trying to do is kind of combat the community perspective that’s saying ‘hey, we have a homelessness problem,'” he said. “I’m not saying we don’t; We are trying to figure out exactly what it is and what it looks like. And, this is done by keeping an account.
The city’s efforts to count the homeless population began in May and are still being developed, officials said this week. The move came shortly after Flores was promoted from chief of police to his current position.
“Part of my new role here is kind of overseeing anything that has to do with public safety – most people think of it as police and fire, but I’ve also taken on a code enforcement role” , he noted frequent questions about who falls under homelessness. below.
Flores said there are other groups that do ad hoc studies, but that would focus specifically on Sherman. Others are departmental or regional. More recently, Flores said Sherman helped with head counts for the last census.
Meanwhile, the continuum of care providers are required to do their own point-in-time counts at least every two years by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. These counts take place every year at the end of January and survey the homeless population for a single day.
A count by the Texoma Homeless Coalition found 55 protected people living in Grayson and Fannin counties.
“When you look at these reports, they’re grouped by area,” he said. “So we’re lumped together with Fannin and Cooke counties and it’s a bit difficult to figure out exactly which part of that is isolated from Sherman.”
Doing the tally, Flores said Sherman could better tailor its response and assistance to the real needs of the community. Rather than taking a broad approach, Flores said the tally will allow for a more targeted response.
“If we can figure out what our homeless population is in Sherman, as a municipality we can look to other organizations that we may want to provide money to help the homeless,” said Flores said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel and come up with a new homeless initiative that people are already using.”
“He may not always be treated the way every member of the community wants, but we want to be proactive and let the community know that we care about his quality of life,” he continued.
The study may also seek to help the ministry itself better provide service to a group that is traditionally underserved despite an equal or even greater need for service. Flores cited a murder at a homeless camp near the Ashley Home Store as an example.
“The fact remains that it is still a part of the community that needs to receive police services,” he said.