In October 2017, Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland announced the creation of his homelessness task force. Composed of community members who work with homeless populations in various capacities, the task force is a way to consolidate efforts and make things more efficient and effective. The task force includes 20 community members from different agencies and nonprofits, including Seeds of Hope Executive Director Mark Vanderheyden. The group is meeting regularly to identify the challenges faced by the homeless, to determine what helping resources exist and to find out what more is needed. Issues facing the homeless identified by the task force include things such as hunger, behavioral health concerns, shelter and employment.
The homeless population in the city is diverse, as are the reasons underlying homelessness. The definitions of homeless varies among government agencies. The group agrees on one definition: not having permanent housing.
The task force estimates there are 1,000 homeless individuals in Casa Grande.
“We are seeing increasing numbers of homeless individuals come through our hot lunch program,” Vanderheyden said. “And if we really dig deeper, we will find families who are doubled-up or adults who are sharing their homes with friends to avoid homelessness. It is a complex problem.”
The task force will create an action plan to include findings and resources. The Mayor will release the final report, which is expected to be completed in a few months.
“We have been helping the homeless for 25 years and have unique insights into their plight,” Vanderheyden said. “Seeds of Hope will definitely be a central part of this community’s plan to help the homeless.”