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It was Lincoln County Manager Kelly Atkins who spearheaded this taskforce and put Lincoln County Animal Services Director Hannah Houser at the head of it. Although she’s only been the director for five years, Houser has led the shelter to become one of the few county-run no-kill shelters in North Carolina. 

“Every day I want to work to make this world and Lincoln County a better place,” she said. “I was truly excited to get the opportunity do something that could have a lasting impact and make the lives of the people in Lincoln County better.”

Since the first meeting of the taskforce, a survey has been launched which is available online and in hard copy at all county offices. The results of the survey, which will run through the end of October, will allow the members of the taskforce to work towards some sort of potential solution to the problem. John Hall, the director of Hesed House of Hope, Lincoln County’s homeless shelter, is aware of some of the homeless population within the limits of the City of Lincolnton, but there are other locations throughout the county where people may be living in tents, cars, sheds, abandoned buildings, or other facilities. 

“We’re requesting data and information as well as public opinion,” Houser said. “What people are seeing and feeling about homelessness is a key piece of this. I’m hoping to get as many responses as possible. So far we’ve had quite a lot and the quality of the information and responses is outstanding.”

The survey can be completed completely anonymously, or not, and is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/THKSCXS. For those who don’t have Internet access, the survey can be completed at any county office. The survey will run through the end of October.

“Kelly had the foresight to see that this was becoming an issue in Lincoln County,” Houser said. “Even before it became an issue at the commissioner’s meetings. The fact that he made sure that we had the resources and people on board from the city, nonprofits, and the county to really start to address this is really important. We’re very excited about it. All aspects of it need to be looked at.”

Once the data and opinions have been received, the taskforce will begin looking at what other communities have done and what’s worked in similar situations. Then, possibly applying those solutions to Lincoln County.

“There’s not one community that’s completely solved it,” Houser said. “It’s one of those complex problems. Even if a program is successful in one place, you can’t always translate it to a different community. That’s why the survey is so critical.”

Times-News will continue to report on the progress of this taskforce.

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