AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The City of Amarillo and Mayor Ginger Nelson are hosting the Mayor’s Summit on Homelessness next week.
Mayor Nelson wants to address the issue of homelessness and discuss how we can move forward on eliminating it completely here in Amarillo.
The city itself already has programs in place, like “Coming Home,” which has successfully placed 40 people in homes over the last seven months.
The summit will bring other organizations working to address homelessness together and serve as a platform for our community to ask questions and get educated on the issue.
Mayor Nelson said they will also talk about statistics on the homeless here in Amarillo over the past year.
“We had $8 million spent in emergency room services for homeless people. That’s a gigantic cost number,” said Mayor Nelson. “If we can redirect those costs into better programming, better care for them on the front end before it reaches emergency service level, aren’t we doing a better, isn’t that more compassionate?”
Mayor Nelson will also answer other questions from the community, like the often-asked question regarding pulling funding from the MPEV in order to help those in need.
Mayor Nelson explained, “The MPEV is funded with hotel occupancy tax dollars, so people that come and stay in our hotels, and pay a tax, and those dollars have to go toward a tourism development project.”
Since the MPEV does attract tourism, it qualifies to use those tax dollars. “We can’t spend those to fix roads, we can’t spend them to hire police officers, and we can’t spend them on homeless programming.”
Dr. Sam Tsemberis will also be at the summit, discussing his “Housing First” model, a way of getting people into housing, then figuring out secondary issues they may have, like mental illness, that are driving them toward a homeless lifestyle. It’s the same model the City of Amarillo uses.
The summit is set for Thursday, July 18 at the Amarillo Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. It begins at 8 a.m. and is free to get in, but you do have to reserve your ticket online ahead of time.