It may be a new year but local organizations and agencies are trying to solve a problem that’s been around for decades-–homelessness in the Borderland.
According to local homeless shelter organizer John Martin from the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, there are nearly 1,400 homeless people in El Paso on any given night.
But along with other local agencies, the Opportunity Center is heading into a second year of a unique program to try and reduce the problem.
Multiple agencies in the Borderland make up the El Paso Homeless Consortium, a program designed to prevent homelessness and get more people off the streets.
The coalition includes the Opportunity Center, Centro San Vicente, El Paso Center for Children, the Aliviane PATH program, El Paso Human Services, the El Paso Downtown Management District and the American GI Forum.
These agencies came together with the initiative to reduce homelessness in El Paso when this program launched around this time last year, but now as it enters its second year, the funding is cut in half.
According to Martin, the city granted the program roughly $110,000 in 2018, but says that number is cut in half for 2019.
And with less funding, Martin says the program relies heavily on the community.
“With what few dollars we have there’s a large amount of competition many times you have to make it work with what you have but dollars equate to the number of people that you’re able to put on the streets to work,” Martin said. “That’s where having only half the funding, it’ll still be effective, but not as effective as last year.”
Martin said in the program’s first year, agencies surpassed their goal to shelter 600 homeless people by reaching more than 700 individuals.
The director of the Opportunity Center says the agencies actually need roughly $150,000 to run the program efficiently, but with less funding they appreciate help from the community in the form of volunteers and donations.
A former homeless El Pasoan, John Fleek, who now works for the street outreach program at the Opportunity Center says he used to be homeless in Northeast El Paso.
Fleek said he then became a resident at the Opportunity Center who worked his way up to his position now, which works with finding homeless individuals on the street and brings them in to shelter.
Fleek says he has concerns, having been on both sides of the issue.
“I would like to see honestly more funding so that I could have more people out there doing street outreach and to cover more area, El Paso is a huge, huge town we cover as much of the town as we can but there’s a lot of El Paso to cover,” Fleek said.