On a bright and early Saturday morning, Randy Oliver stood on the concrete sidewalk leading into the red-brick Harker Heights Food Care Center waiting for his turn to grab canned goods and other groceries.
Week after week, Oliver continues this routine. He has struggled financially for years, and is among many people in the city who are homeless.
More than 1,000 homeless individuals and families are clients at the food care center, and that number continues to climb, Executive Director Linda Dawson said. In fact, an independent survey conducted recently by Dawson showed that 2 percent of the city’s population is homeless.
“A lot of people think of Harker Heights as a very rich community,” Dawson said. “Every month I get one or two more (food care center clients) that say, ‘I had to move out of my house, I can’t afford to pay the rent or utilities anymore,’ or, ‘I’m staying with a friend right now so can I still get food?’”
Oliver became homeless three years ago after he lost his job in landscaping. He often finds himself moving from one location to the next, but is currently living at a friend’s house, he said.
“Its rough, not having any steady income where I can afford a place and be on my own again instead of depending on people.”
The longtime Harker Heights resident has submitted dozens of job applications to various employers. He is optimistic the employment market will open new doors of opportunity soon for people like him. In the meantime, he asks this of the community:
“Give us a chance to do work and make it, and do whatever else they can.”
While there are people like Oliver who are already on the streets, others, like Vanisse Higginbotham, are on the verge of being homeless.
Higginbotham lives in a three-bedroom trailer with her husband and daughters, ages 16, 13, 5 and 4. The family has struggled since Higginbotham was forced to step down from her job with the Killeen school district last year to care for her youngest daughter when she could no longer afford the cost of childcare.
Higginbotham said she has reached the lowest point in her life, barely able to financially get by and forced to ask friends and family for help to keep the roof over their heads.
The recent holiday season was especially difficult for the Higginbotham family.
“Christmas was rough because I wasn’t working,” she said. “Its just heart wrenching to know your kids have been good and you don’t want them to suffer because of the job situation or money income, so its been really rough.
“There’s been times that if it wasn’t for the kids I wouldn’t even get out of bed, and there’s nights I cry myself to sleep.”
Dawson said there are no homeless shelters in Harker Heights, but she is currently collecting funds to expand the food care center facility to better serve the homeless population.
For more information on how to help, call Dawson at (254) 813-5333.