Crestview mayor announces advisory council to address homelessness

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The Mayor of Crestview announced today he has appointed a special, independent mayoral advisory council to address homeless in Crestview.

Mayor J.B. Whitten announced Wednesday afternoon that eight people will sit on the council, each with their own purpose.

Sarah Velverton, of the Okaloosa-Walton Homeless and Housing Alliance, was named the chair. Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles will sit on the board to represent the county and councilwoman Cynthia Brown will represent that city of Crestview.

Maj. Andrew Schneider will represent the Crestview Police Department. Rev. Mark Broadhead will represent the area’s faith community. Ann Sprague is representing the Crestview Area Shelter for the Homeless.

Ryan Price will represent Crestview’s Chamber of Commerce and there will be an additional member of the mental health community named to the council.

The council’s purpose is to meet and development a strategic plan to address reducing homelessness in Crestview. Whitten said there are about 120 homeless people living in Crestview, a city with a population of about 25,000. Once a plan is developed, the council plans on meeting with non-profits and other community groups to implement the plan, which could call for affordable housing, rather than temporary shelters. The council is looking for solutions that result in reducing homelessness long-term.

Whitten said he is passionate about reducing homelessness because in today’s society, everyone should be able to find housing.

“It just bothers me a lot,” he said.

He said it wasn’t until he got into office he realized Crestview had a homeless problem.

“When I got elected, I said ‘I need to know that’,” he said. “I need to educate myself; I need to educate my fellow elected officials; and I need to educate the public. When you tell me we have 120 out in the woods, then we have a problem.”

The council will not be subjected to Florida’s public records laws because it does not report to the city council and does not have more than one council member on it.

At the announcement Wednesday, Pam Pannasch, a member of the American Legion in Crestview, suggested Whitten add a member to the council to represent the military because there are many homeless veterans in Crestview, she said.

Pannasch told News 5 she was excited to see the advisory council established.

“It’s fantastic,” she said. “There have been so many people that have talked about the homeless, but nothing has been done about it. Just by visiting the new homeless shelter, I could see there’s a great need here.”

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