As the city continues to discuss the homeless problem, local business and religious leaders gathered with the Arizona Justice Center for their second conversation on ideas and experiences with the homeless population.

Joe Charles, executive director of Arizona Justice Center, held the second in a three-part conversation discussing what local leaders and business owners can do to address the homeless population in the West Valley.

“The point of our first meeting was to brainstorm ideas to try and get more services for the homeless population in Glendale and the West Valley,” Charles said. “We recently gave out 400 sack lunches, with all volunteers doing the work; and we would like to get more services in the city to help these people that want the assistance.”

Charles began meeting with like-minded people within the community, and called the first town meetings informal gatherings or “conversations.” Twenty people were present to discuss ways to improve the assistance available for homeless people who would like assistance.

Among the biggest issues was to inquire about vacant city-owned land to possibly build small units, 300 to 500 square feet in size, where people could stay and receive help finding employment.

“At our first meeting, I thought, “Why can’t we get some vacant land and put up some structures, and the homeless can go there for 30 days to six months, and we can help them find jobs, and then they can move on?” Charles said. “It would be like a starting place to help them get back on their feet.”

No discussions have taken place with the city to date, Charles said. Talks are planned for after the third meeting in April following strategic planning. However, Council Assistant Samuel Pena, who was present for Councilman Jamie Aldama, said he would take his request back to the council for discussion.

Local business owner and former Councilmember Yvonne Knaack said the work the group was doing was a good start, but more connection between the city and residents was needed.

“When I was on council, the city would not even admit we had a homeless problem,” Knaack said. “Now, they are finally acknowledging there is a problem, but how are we going to connect local businesses, churches, city staff and meal providers that can get together to figure this out?”

Meeting at Fajardo’s Café on Market Street March 8, attendees discussed the main issues and ways to get people the assistance they need. Several suggested giving the homeless meals, clothing and information on ways to get help, noting most had to go to Phoenix to get real help that could make a difference.

“During our next meeting, we will brainstorm more and set up our plan of action, and then we will start conversations in a way to possibly partner with the city so we can make a difference,” Charles said. “We will get lists and ready to present, and hopefully, we can get some numbers on possible costs of things we discussed here today.”