KILLEEN, Texas — The City of Killeen has long struggled with a growing homeless population and according to a new study, that problem is on track to get even worse.
A study conducted by Dr. Robert Marbut, homelessness consultant for Killeen and Temple, says Killeen is on a path to quadruple its homeless population before 2030.
”If we go much longer, this is not going to be an easy thing to fix,” said Dr. Marbut. “You're at a rate where you are doubling in the next four to five years. Then there will be another doubling after that in three to four years because you're on a logarithmic curve now.”
The study also found at two-thirds of the homeless population in Killeen is directly connected to Fort Hood, but it's not just veterans, it’s also military dependents and their extended family members that don’t qualify for VA benefits.
”That group is almost as big as the veterans themselves,” said Dr. Marbut. “That was our big surprise. About 37% of the county-wide issue comes from Fort Hood.”
Hearing that Fort Hood was fueling much of the homeless population in Killeen was something that Killeen City Council member and U.S. Army veteran Jose Segarra, was shocked to hear.
”To be honest I'm still scratching my head on that one and trying to figure that one out,” said Segarra. “I understand that we do have a veteran population in our homeless, we've always known that but, to associated directly from Fort Hood with a surprising fact.”
The growth in the homeless population won’t slow overnight but Dr. Marbut said the community can help by not giving people money when they are asked for it at an intersection.
”We’re going to be asking average citizens, instead of giving money out your window can you please donate to a charity or nonprofit that's doing real good work in this space? That's what we want to do,” Dr. Marbut.
It’s something Council Member Segarra agrees with.
”There are organizations and there is help that is available to them,” said Segarra. “It's just changing their mindset and getting them to say, I want that help.”
Dr. Marbut says Killeen is in the perfect window to slow the growth of homelessness in the city and will help to present solutions and the coming months.