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Alexandria mayor addresses crime, homeless veterans at state of community update

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 7:00 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2021 at 10:55 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Alexandria Mayor Jeff Hall held his monthly state of the community update at the Johnny Downs Sports Complex to address the rise in crime and the fight to help homeless veterans.

Mayor Hall says he is hoping that the re-opening of sports and youth facilities in the city will give the younger generation safer options.

One of the facilities that are set to open back up in the next several months is the playing fields at Johnny Downs. Construction crews are currently working on the $6.5 million rejuvenation project that will fix the LED lighting and add turf and bullpens to each field. This project is expected to be complete in time for the Dixie League World Series in July.

The mayor also said that the Youth and Teen Center and the Frank O. Hunter Park Gym will open on April 5 for the first time since closing down a year ago due to COVID-19.

“That’s part of making us more of a wholesome community and we do believe that this helps us with the juvenile challenges we are having in the community. We are giving them something to do by having a place to go that’s structured with programs. Having these sports facilities open contributes to the overall reality and attitude of the community,” said Mayor Hall.

The City of Alexandria has already reported 12 fatal shootings to start the year. Mayor Hall said that city officials will be meeting with church leaders along with health care and educational professionals in Alexandria to figure out more ways to help the youth.

“We have to hear from the community and we have to get the community involved. The city doesn’t have all the answers to everything, but by putting the community and those organizations together, we’re going to get there,” said Mayor Hall.

The meeting will be open to the public and take place Wednesday, March 24 at 10:30 a.m. at the Frank O. Hunter Park gym.

Mayor Hall also announced at the community update that the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has designated Alexandria as a city that has ended veteran homelessness. Alexandria is one of four cities in the state that has received that designation.

The city has a system in place to make sure that if there are any more homeless veterans, that they can receive affordable housing within 90 days. Desmona Johnson is the Homeless Program Coordinator at the Alexandria Veterans Affairs Clinic and says that they are proud of this accomplishment but will still work every day to make sure veterans get the care they need.

“What we’re seeing is not that we won’t have homeless veterans that fall into homelessness because that will be a battle that we continue to work towards and to fight, but that we have a systematic plan in place with all the community partners for the homeless veterans. If a homeless veteran is identified, we want to be able to house them in a permanent, safe, decent affordable housing option,” said Johnson.

Johnson is hoping that the city can use this framework system to help eliminate homelessness all across Central Louisiana.

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