In a city of 132,000 people — the largest in Bell County — many residents have agreed it is time to get serious about starting a homeless shelter.
A one-day survey given in January at 10 locations in downtown Killeen identified 46 homeless individuals, nearly a three-fold increase from previous years.
Last month, city leaders learned that they will be able to use federal grants to help fund a homeless shelter project in Killeen.
“We need to have a homeless shelter in Killeen, and the city needs to contribute to that to the extent that it can,” Mayor Dan Corbin said. “I feel strongly that it should be one of our top priorities.”
Each year, the city is granted about $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to distribute for Community Development Block Grants, which can be used for a homeless shelter.
Most cities do not operate their own homeless shelters, Corbin said. But they do support professional nonprofit organizations, such as the Salvation Army or Casa Marianella in Austin.
Corbin said several fundraising initiatives and homeless shelter plans have been hatched in Killeen over the past year, by local nonprofits, such as Families in Crisis, and church organizations.
“If the city is going to give somebody funds, they’re going to have to have experience doing nonprofit work,” Corbin said.
Homeless shelter organizations are often run through a board of directors, which provides important oversight for fundraising and expenditures.
In the past month and a half, pastor Steve Chae, who runs the Jesus Hope & Love Homeless Mission, independently raised $8,300 through local donations, which helped him take a major step toward his goal of starting a homeless shelter.
At his twice-weekly soup kitchen behind H-E-B on Sprott Street in downtown Killeen, Chae sees many of the planned shelter’s target group.
This month, he closed on property in downtown Killeen that he plans to renovate for a full-service transitional house and homeless shelter. Chae also said several businesses have helped his project by donating in-kind, such as the title company, which waived its normal fees.
“I didn’t ask, but they are all getting together to help out,” Chae said.
Chae said he still has to raise nearly $100,000 in order to pay the mortgage on the property.
“I’m not much worried about it because it’s not my benefit. It’s for everybody,” Chae said. “This is just the beginning. It is not done yet.”
To donate to Chae’s homeless shelter, call (254) 291-2314 or send donations to: P.O. Box 1595, Killeen, TX 76540.