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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Newly-elected IN mayor prioritizes solutions for homelessness

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Tuesday, January 16, 2024   

January is when cities across the country do a one-night count of their homeless populations. In one Indiana city, the mayor is already thinking about the results.

Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson raised her right hand this month hand and took the oath of office. It's her first term, although she's no stranger to tackling tough housing issues and wants to get the conversation started.

For more than two decades, Thomson served as CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, so she is well aware of how many Hoosiers lack affordable housing. She said she's already working to find solutions for people who are unhoused in Bloomington.

"People may argue about whether or not it's a city's job to actually provide housing or provide other services," Thomson explained. "What we can do is bring the experts to the table, and bring those in need to the table, and create solutions that actually work for our community."

Thomson is using the tragedy of murders at homeless encampments to fuel her mission for solutions. She said a solution will take a multi-tiered approach, like keeping people housed where they are. This means eviction prevention programs are critical, along with retaining existing affordable housing and creating new options.

The annual one-night "Point In Time" surveys of unhoused people will take place throughout Indiana next week.

Thomson observed that, since the Reagan era, sometimes there's simply no place to go for people who require long-term care, so they often end up on the streets.

"In the '80s, there were state hospitals -- which were not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination -- but rather than improving them and solving the challenges with them, we closed them. There never was a replacement for a residential facility that could really manage meds and care on longer-term basis," she continued.

Weather is underscoring the urgency for solutions. Indiana is in a stretch of bitter cold, with temperatures in the single digits and wind chills so low frostbite can happen within minutes on exposed skin. Thomson says the city's outreach workers and partner organizations are making sure anyone without shelter is aware of warming centers throughout the city. It's a temporary fix as the city explores permanent solutions.


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