WILMINGTON — Homelessness is on the minds of local residents as well as officials.
At Thursday’s Wilmington Council Meeting, Councilmember Nick Eveland discussed issues that were brought up at a City Services Committee meeting on July 30.
Eveland, the committee’s chair, told council they took away four issues: Homelessness, vagrancy, a rise in drug abuse, and mental illness.
Mayor John Stanforth advised council members he had been speaking to homeless individuals of the city. He also addressed these findings at the committee meeting.
“I have learned more about homelessness in the last few months than I ever thought I would,” Stanforth said. “We’re not the only community suffering through this. And when I say suffer through this, I’m talking about the homeless people. Those are the ones who are suffering.”
Stanforth told council he learned that around 70 percent of the homeless are “temporary homeless” — meaning they’ll be homeless for less than 60 days.
These homeless could be an abuse victim who left their abuser with no place to go. Or it could be someone with a health issue with no insurance and they couldn’t keep up with rent payments.
“Those are temporary. Once they get their lives back in order they’re going to get a place to stay,” he said.
The other 30 percent, he said, were “chronic homeless.”
“Most of them suffer from mental illness,” Stanforth said. “Because of the mental illness, it can lead to drugs and alcohol. They’re trying to hide or self-medicate. They don’t want to feel the way they feel.”
He added that it can be a case of them getting off their medication, which can lead to old habits.
“Those people are very hard to help. They’ve usually worn out their welcome with friends and family,” Stanforth said. “Those are the ones you usually find sleeping out in the woods.”
It’s not an unsolvable problem, he indicated, but it’s a difficult one.
“We are a caring community. We want to take care of the people that are down on their luck,” he said.
Councilmember Kelsey Swindler said she feels the city should look into whether homeless individuals know about available resources as well as who is drawing on them and able to use them.
Officials indicated they’re still trying to research the issues. Eveland indicated during the ongoing fact-finding that they’re discovering, in many cases, the aforementioned four issues are connected in some way.
Swindler is also hoping to have county officials sit in and give their input on the issue.
Councilmember Jonathan McKay, also a committee member, indicated that having the citizen input really helped. Many of the officials agreed and hoped to see further input at the next committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574