Brown County Home Solutions (BCHS) is using National Homeless Awareness Week — observed Nov. 10-18 — to inform the community that this new local organization continues to lay the groundwork for addressing and preventing homelessness in our county.

The effort began Feb. 23, 2012, when a group of interested citizens met at the Juvenile Detention Center at 1400 Houston St. at the invitation of Chief Juvenile Probation Officer James R. Williams. He told Angelia Bostick, executive director of Good Samaritan Ministries and Donna Harris, director of The Salvation Army, that the site might serve as an emergency shelter to house Brown County residents who are facing homelessness. The property would soon be vacated, and the Juvenile Detention Center would be moved to former TYC facilities.

That was the impetus to move folks in the community who have seen, heard and cared about their fellow citizens who were homeless but felt helpless to meet the need. From that initial meeting, several more meetings were held with representatives of helping agencies already assisting Brown County homeless or families at risk of homelessness: Center for Life Resources, The Salvation Army, The Ark, Good Samaritan Ministries and Central Texas Opportunities. Several more community meetings were held with up to 50 citizens in attendance and a grant was applied for. The grant was denied, but the organizing group continued and continues to meet, plan and implement strategies for ending homelessness in Brown County by assisting homeless individuals and families or persons at risk of homelessness to quickly regain stability into permanent housing. By-laws have been written, approved and sent to the Secretary of State along with Articles of Incorporation for the new entity. 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status will be applied for over the coming year.

Understanding homelessness in rural communities requires a more flexible definition than applied to urban areas. There are fewer shelters in rural areas, therefore people experiencing homelessness are less likely to live on the street or in a shelter. They are more likely to live in a car, camper, storage building or with relatives in overcrowded or substandard housing. It has been shown that few job opportunities, lower wages and longer periods of unemployment often plague the rural poor. Efforts to end rural homelessness are complicated by isolation, lack of awareness and lack of resources. (Google “Living Wage Brown County Texas” for additional details.)

Brown County Home Solutions, Inc. will be dedicated to providing safe housing and supportive services to promote self-sufficiency for the homeless individuals and families; and to educate the public to create awareness and achieve sustainable solutions.

BCHS, Inc. is guided by the principles of accountability, collaboration, compassion and mutual respect, excellence, human connections, innovation and engagement, stewardship and sustainability. Brown County Home Solutions, Inc. (“BCHS, INC.”) is a partnership of public and private leaders working to enact strategies to end homelessness in Brown County.

 “We hope that you will help support our mission of ending homelessness in Brown County by getting involved to help make a difference in people’s lives, “ BCHS spokesperson Ken Davis said. “Take the pledge alongside other volunteers, businesses, and churches who want to end homelessness today.”

For more information and to keep updated and involved in our progress, visit bchs@familyservicesc.net.