Brown County Home Solutions (BCHS) gained the attention and support of the Brownwood City Council Tuesday.
Council members authorized Mayor Stephen Haynes to write a letter of support for the faith-based nonprofit organization, which was created to address homelessness in Brown County.
The letter isn’t obligating the city to any action. The organization’s executive director, Linda Heitman, told council members a letter of support is required from the governing agency in order for the organization to apply for grants.
“In the grant writing processes, for emergency service grants, they require a letter of approval for the governing authority for shelters,” Heitman told council members. “I am not asking for funding, I’m not asking for rezoning or anything, I am just asking for official acknowledgement and approval of our program, so that I can use that approval for grant seeking purposes.”
Heitman went on to give council members a snapshot of BCHS, saying it has three programs:
• Community assistance in areas such as emergency rent and utilities. The goal is to keep those who are at risk for homelessness in their homes.
• Legacy Village, a community of “tiny homes” on the property of the former Avenue D Baptist Church that make up a transitional housing program, “designed to transition the homeless back into productive society,” Heitman told council members.
“It is a complete program, it’s not just housing. And there are criteria that they have to meet, there are requirements that they have to perform during their stay and it is for a limited amount of time.”
• Inclement weather shelter, still in the planning stages. Rooms will be located in the upstairs of the former Avenue D Baptist Church.
“I checked with homeless shelters around the state and everybody uses about the same criteria as far as triggers to open,” Heitman said.
She said those triggers are a forecast low of 32 degrees or colder and calm, or 35 or 36 degrees and below with wind or precipitation.
“It is just overnight shelter to give them a safe place to be so that they don’t freeze, then they leave the next morning,” Heitman told council members.
Councilman Larry Mathis said he remembers the groundbreaking for Legacy Village. “I’ve always believed if it can be done through the private sector rather than through government, that’s better,” Mathis said.
“This is a good project. It’s doing to be helpful to a lot of people."
Heitman said she’d been asked how many homeless people are in Brown County.
“It’s very hard to count,” Heitman said, adding that BCHS participates twice a year in a count for the Texas Homeless Network.
Heitman said she looked through her files recently.
“Just the homeless that I personally have dealt with this year, in people looking for a place to stay, there were 44 and that included five families with children,” Heitman said.
“There were another 40 that I have dealt with that were under eviction, that were about to be on the streets. And there are more that I’ve seen around town, that I haven’t dealt with but I recognize them, because I see them all the time. So there’s definitely a need.”
Heitman said one of the current Legacy Village residents, a woman with two children who has gotten clean from methamphetamine, is in a management training program at her job, is active in church and “is doing fantastic.
“But we have accountability,” Heitman said. “Unfortunately I had to remove someone from the program last week and it’s hard, but this is an improvement program. We have standards and we have accountability and we uphold it. I want you all to be comforted in the fact that we do. We uphold the standards that we place. They work the program or they don’t stay.”
BCHS is governed by a board of directors, Heitman said.
Heitman also told council members a work project is planned for Saturday at Legacy Village. The goal is to frame and side a new tiny home in a day, Heitman said.
An open house at Legacy Village is planned for Oct. 5.