It’s time to recommit to reducing chronic homelessness in Tarrant County

News this week that the number of chronically homeless persons in Tarrant County is up 60 percent over last year is cause for alarm.

But rather than viewing the newly released numbers as a sign of hopelessness in dealing with this problem in our community, it should be a call to action, knowing that despite all the good efforts that are being put forth to address this issue, more must be done.

Based on the 2014 Point in Time Count taken in January, there are 331 chronically homeless people in the county this year compared to 208 identified in 2013. The overall homeless count was up 3 percent over last year to 2,451, with 189 homeless veterans.

The figures were released Wednesday in the annual State of the Homeless Address by Cindy J. Crain, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.

Crain said an additional 643 beds are needed for the chronically homeless and another 145 beds for homeless veterans in order to get them off them streets by 2015.

Yes, it will be a challenge, but one that can be met.

Those who have worked for years to alleviate the problem realize that homelessness is far more complicated than an individual not having a permanent place to live.

Many, including returning veterans, suffer from mental illness, have substance abuse problems and are in need of job training. While there are services in place to provide help in these areas, agencies working with the homeless can’t do it alone.

A strategic plan has been devised to end chronic homelessness which includes providing more permanent supportive housing beds. But funding will be needed to do that, and Crain stressed that it will take the effort of the entire community if we are to make serious inroads in reducing these disturbing numbers.

Let us meet this challenge head-on, committed to helping change the conditions — the lives — of our unfortunate neighbors.