On the heels of last week’s revelation that the City of Amarillo would send code violation notices to Christ Church Camp of New Beginnings that could lead to costly fines for the homeless camp — and its potential closure — officials offered a variety of resources to residents Monday.
Agencies representing the Continuum of Care and various city entities were present at Southwest First Ave. for roughly 3½ hours.
“I’m very excited,” said Amarillo Community Development Block Grant Administrator James Allen, who served as the outreach effort’s coordinator. “I see people that are engaging and agencies from all over our Continuum of Care are here. The residents are receptive and really that’s all you can ask. As long as the dialogue is there, it’s up to the residents to decide if they want to receive those services or not.”
Amarillo Housing First, Workforce Solutions Panhandle, Amarillo Public Health and Animal Management and Welfare were among the organizations and departments present.
“We’re concentrating on housing, medical care and other basic needs,” Allen said. “We want to give these residents an opportunity to live in something a little bit more secure, not dealing with the weather and elements they have to deal with in these tents. I understand there was a gentleman with a broken hand they’ve already taken for X-rays. That’s what we do.”
Allen said the outreach would serve as the beginning, noting some of the agencies would be coming back to visit with people while others would be going to the resource center to continue intake.
“I just moved here from Myrtle Beach, S.C., three days ago and have received more help here than the entire time I was there,” resident Richard Beau Gregor said.
“My identification was stolen before I got here, so I have an appointment to get that taken care of, which will help me get a job. People in Texas are so great. They’re here to help you at this camp, but they make it clear it’s not forever. And I fully understand that. I want to put myself in a position to improve my situation.”
Camp founder Amanda Brown Hunter said she’s appreciative of the city’s overtures but maintains it’s important to remain focused on the big picture.
“We’re happy they (agencies and providers) all came out in force like this,” she said. “But the thing everybody seems to forget is these people are here on a regular basis. A lot of my residents are still not going to take advantage of the services. They just don’t want to be a part of it and that’s why there is such need for low-barrier shelter.
“Right now I’m meeting that need and the city is not happy about it.”
Last week city officials said the notices to the camp operators and landowner on which it sits could face fines of up to $2,000 daily if legal proceedings move in that direction.
Brown-Hunter said the reasons the majority of camp residents won’t avail themselves of services and resources are great in number, but the kinship fostered among residents plays a major role.
“For a lot of these people, this is their only family,” she said. “They don’t want to dissolve away. We are a community and a family, as dysfunctional as we are. A lot of these people didn’t have that before and don’t want to let that go.”