Time to take a serious look at our homeless problem

In late January, the numbers for the Washington County homeless count were collected. While it’s too soon to have that data, we think that once we do, there might be a need for a discussion about filling some gaps in service.

There is currently no emergency shelter in the county and seemingly no after-hours phone number to call for someone who finds themselves suddenly without a place to spend the night.

Of course, there’s always 911, but a Marietta police dispatcher told The Marietta Times last week that they will not send an officer for such a call.

We all know that homelessness looks different here than in a more urban setting. Many homeless move from residence to residence or stay somewhere with multiple families and inadequate conditions. They may not be immediately identifiable and visible as homeless.

But there are those literally out on the street. Many of us had noticed the “tent city” that had sprung up off Pike Street near the interstate ramps before those folks were asked to move on. This homeless count is measuring that type of homelessness — only those staying in shelters and sleeping outside.

Let’s see what the numbers are. And then let’s see what we need to do.

There are some resources in the community but few that offer an immediate, emergency response. And some who do provide that–such as the Salvation Army, which will put someone up in a motel in an emergency situation–can only be reached during limited daytime hours.

We think as a community we can work to have a more comprehensive approach and a more immediate response. The city has started to do so, offering an overnight warming station with cots and food during a brutal cold snap last week. But we think we can do more than offering shelter a few nights a year.

We hope in the coming weeks and months to see some community organizations work together on this and plug this gap.