Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pa. --- At a workshop meeting Wednesday night, a question and answer session was held at the borough town hall to start a conversation about the issue of homelessness.
Officials say the issue of sleeping and camping in public places, such as parks, sidewalks, and benches, has become a polarizing issue in the community.
Carlisle currently does not have any law or ordinance prohibiting sleeping in public.
"No one is interested in criminalizing folks for their circumstances. That's one thing we're staying away from. We don't want to pass any ordinances or criminalize people for how they're living. We're interested in just helping to address the root causes of the problem before it becomes a problem," said Mayor Tim Scott.
Several county and borough homeless care and service providers were in attendance to discuss gaps and issues facing their efforts, including funding cuts, a lack of available services, transportation, accountable landlords and even the court of public opinion.
Mayor Scott said he would like to see a task force created that pulls together organizations to come up with solutions to the issues surrounding homelessness.
He said they could pursue "low hanging fruit," using the example of changing an ordinance to open one park as a safe place for those experiencing homelessness to begin outreach opportunities.
Carrie Breschi, who works with Community CARES in Carlisle, an emergency shelter and resources provider, said she hopes to see more outreach to open up more resources while lowering the stigma surrounding the issue.
“It’s about being compassionate and it’s about being a community because a lot of people don’t have a community. They won’t have friends, they don’t have family that they can turn to and they’re living it on their own and we, as a community, need to be compassionate,” said Breschi.
One person who spoke said they would like to see assistance from neighboring municipalities, as to not put the burden of a solution on Carlisle taxpayers.
Gary Grant, who owns Personal Care Transport and Relax and Ride in Carlisle, said he would like to see more small businesses in the area to step up and contribute for their community.
“You might not be physically there but financially is what the need is for in terms of the ills that we face with homelessness. They need money. That, to me, was the theme of tonight was we don’t have the money to help the people that need to be helped," said Grant.