Mayor assembles working group to help the homeless

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced the assembly of a working group to help combat homelessness in the city Thursday. 

The group, including representatives from social service agencies, businesses, city government, and city residents met for the first time on Wednesday. 

According to the city, the group will meet over the next six months to talk strategy and develop a plan to address the chronic problem. 

“Homelessness is a long-term challenge that affects both the most vulnerable in our community and our residents as a whole. As we prepare for new homelessness housing options opening this fall, this group of community members, business owners, and policy experts will help develop a sustainable response to the human, social, and economic costs of homelessness,” said Buttigieg. 

Top priority issues of housing, shelter, mental health, substance abuse, public safety, and employment are first on the list to be addressed by the group. 

The group includes several local business owners who reached out to the city late last year with concerns about the chronic issue.

Leo Priemer, a financial adviser with Edward Jones on Main Street, says panhandlers sitting outside his office have effected his business.

"We are going to work together to find out how to help these people, be good to these people, who are good human beings but they just have different needs," said Priemer.

The city notes this move could be beneficial as larger cities like Chicago and Fort Wayne have formed similar groups to aid similar issues. 

Owner and developer of the Renaissance District, Kevin Smith, is also part of the group.

"I think the fact of the matter is if you treat people with respect, other people will respect our community because we are addressing these problems head on and we’re not hiding from them. I think our society right now really wants to be somewhere where others are respected and you can really lend somebody a hand up," said Smith.

Another element of the effort includes the FUSE project. This project is in collaboration with South Bend Heritage, offering 32 units of permanent housing for those who are homeless. 

The housing is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2017. 

The working group members taking part in the effort are listed.

Pam Meyer, Director of Neighborhood Engagement, Department of Community Investment
Cherri Peate, Director of Community Outreach, Office of the Mayor
Suzanna Fritzberg, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Mayor
Assistant Chief Jim Luccki, South Bend Fire Department
Captain Tim Lancaster, South Bend Police Department 
Councilwoman Jo Broden, 4th District
Councilman Randy Kelly, 3rd District

Representative of those experiencing homelessness    
Lani Vivirito, Continuum of Care and Center for the Homeless
Steve Camilleri, Center for the Homeless
David Vanderveen, Hope Ministries
Diana Hess, Neighborhood Resources Connection
Jeff Rea, Chamber of Commerce
Phil Newbold, Beacon Health System
Komonique Thomas, Goodwill Industries
Ralph Komasinski, business owner
Dr. Fred Ferlic, community representative
Willow Weatherall, community representative
Charlotte Pfiefer, community representative, 466Works
Sharon McBride, St. Joseph County Community Corrections
Kevin Smith, business owner
Leo Priemer, business owner 
Dr. De Bryant, IUSB
Representative of the University of Notre Dame

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