Jefferson Westside Deals With Large Homeless Population

People who live and work in the neighborhood complain of a large number of homeless and displaced community members.

By Eliza Collins

On a sunny Friday morning the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood looks straight out of a movie. Daffodils cover front lawns and residents sit on their front porches and smile at pedestrians. It’s warm enough that people sit outside of the neighborhood cafes sipping coffee and chatting.  However, a closer look into the picturesque neighborhood reveals a problem those familiar to Jefferson Westside are acutely aware of.

Despite being a highly residential neighborhood, Jefferson Westside has a large number of homeless and displaced people. Unlike most cities where the homeless population is concentrated in urban areas, Jefferson Westside is close to downtown which means people tend to wander in and out of the residential area.

Wairimu Lazeney stands in front of her house in JWN

Wairimu Lazeney has lived in Jefferson Westside Neighborhood for two months but has already noticed the homeless population as a problem. She says that her proximity to downtown and the bus station attracts a lot of homeless people to her street. “The main thing I’ve noticed is bums,” she said.

Lazeney lives on the Charnelton block of 17th Avenue next to Charnel Mulligan Park and has noticed a difference in the type of people who frequent the area. “If you go to the other side of 18th it’s more neighborhoody. This park brings a lot of unwanted company,” she said.

It’s not just residents who are aware of the homeless in Jefferson Westside. Reed Yates lives outside of the city but spends time in the area. He’s noticed the homeless population has not only grown but has changed over time. “There is a larger age group now, newly economic disposed people have a lot of trouble finding a place to live,” Yates said. He feels a large part of the problem is the lack of resources available to the community.

Carol Hildebrand is a member and volunteer at Jefferson Westside’s First Methodist Church and works with the homeless population daily. The front desk of the church gives out 10 food packs everyday and is happy to offer their water fountain, restrooms, and phone. “We have a clean, warm, dry place for a person to rest and by and large people really appreciate the help,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand at First United Methodist Church

She sees the large homeless problem as both a problem and opportunity. “The folks who live downtown, the folks who don’t have a permanent residence, we are happy to be of service but it also means there are sometimes people who have problems, people who need to be helped,” she said.

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