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Hamilton homelessness task force invites religious leaders to help solve problem. Here’s what they had to say

A task force formed to combat homelessness in Hamilton held its latest meeting this week, this time inviting area religious leaders to be a part of the conversation.

The task force, which launched in March, has been meeting with various groups in hopes of finding solutions to help people out of homelessness.

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Area religious leaders and others who want to eliminate local homelessness said they left a 90-minute meeting with city officials feeling encouraged they can have success.

“I think it was a huge success,” Pastor Marvin Hurley of Summit Church said. “A lot of diversity in the room. That’s a big thing.”

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“I would say this — having been in the ministry 40 years in the city — that I’m excited because of the pulse that I see with a lot of the smaller churches and the younger ministers, and the women, and the men, and the heart that they have,” said Josh Willis with Good Samaritan Inn, a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. “This is the best chance I’ve seen.”

Hurley said his congregation is among those who have been helping the homeless staying in a tent camp near Ohio 4.

“We feed people, and then we give them a message of hope,” Hurley said of his church’s two-year efforts. “We just try to build a relationship with them.”

MORE: 5 things we learned by visiting Hamilton’s homeless tent city

Hurley told the group that faith can help people rebound from difficult issues like homelessness, drug abuse and related issues.

“Something has to take the place of that brokenness,” Hurley said.

Part of the problem facing the homeless is many people don’t understand the challenges they face, said Felix Russo, pastor and director of the New Life Mission in Hamilton.

“They don’t know the stories of the homeless,” Russo said. “Dehumanizing makes it easy to throw people away.”

Among the reasons people become homeless are mental health problems and catastrophic life events, participants said. Many veterans and senior citizens are among the homeless, and four officials from the Butler County Veterans Service Commission, knowing the plight of homeless veterans, also attended the most recent meeting.

RELATED: The face of homelessness is changing in Butler County

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said he now hopes business leaders will join the task force’s efforts, perhaps to find a way to fund as many as 10 housing solutions for the homeless.

“(Former Hamilton Vice Mayor) Kathy Becker has been the true driving force behind this,” Moeller said.

“I know some of these homeless have been gainfully employed, and something happened in their lives,” Moeller said.

Darris Bohman and Jennifer Williams of TriHealth brainstormed during the meeting how health-care providers and others who deal with homeless people after 5 p.m. can find places for them to stay on that particular night.

Some sort of contact to help with that issue would be helpful, they said.

The group’s next meeting has not yet been scheduled, but should happen in about one month. Anyone wanting to join the effort can contact Moeller at pat.moeller@hamilton-oh.gov.

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