Homeless task force holds first meeting

Mar. 29—ANDERSON — The newly formed Anderson/Madison County Homeless Task Force, which was created by a resolution passed by the Anderson City Council last month, met for the first time Thursday and adopted its official name.

City Councilman Greg Graham was elected chairman, Karen Soetenga as vice chairperson, Heather Waymire as secretary and Rob Spaulding as treasurer.

"When we put the board together, we wanted a lot of expertise in several areas including housing, mental health, addictions and health," Graham said. "We want to put plans together to help people already in the local shelters."

Task force members will be touring the local shelters in the next few months.

Graham said it was important for the task force to reach out to Madison County to create a collaborative effort.

Tamie Dixon-Tatum said the task force has to look at the people already living in homeless conditions and those at risk of becoming homeless.

"There are groups trying to fill in the gaps," she said. "This group wants to fill in those gaps."

Spaulding said it's important for the task force to know what each organization is doing in terms of assistance for the homeless.

"We need to know what services are being provided and where the gaps are," Soetenga said. "There are other groups meeting and we don't want to duplicate those efforts."

Spaulding said other communities in Indiana are passing ordinances dealing with the homeless.

Graham said assistant city attorney Tim Lanane is looking at existing state laws dealing with panhandling on state highways and vagrancy.

Dixon-Tatum said homeless people should not be treated as criminals and many are looking for a place to sleep.

Moving them out of locations like along the White River, she said, means the homeless have to find other sites in the community.

"There is criminal activity taking place," Soetenga said. "How do we address that"?

Spaulding said there are services available in Anderson but the challenge is getting the homeless into programs.

The group also voted to use the $10,000 pledged by Anderson Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. to hire an attorney to help with the creation of bylaws and to apply for federal not for profit status and with the Indiana Secretary of State's office.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.