Activists call for more services to help the homeless

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis activists are urging city leaders to do more to combat homelessness and mental illness.

Concerned community members gathered at the bench outside City Hall where Sheley Thompson lost her life.

Thompson died outside City Hall during one of the coldest nights so far this winter. She was last known to live at a care home on Lucy Avenue.

Though the weather has warmed up, activists are pointing to her death as a reminder of the dangers those less fortunate can face sleeping on the streets.

"They are human beings and we want to reiterate that and keep the dream alive," activist Tamara Hendrix said.

Hendrix helped organize the vigil and moment of silence dedicated to Thompson. She said Memphis is in need of more shelters that open their doors to people of all walks of life.

"A lot of our shelters are faith-based and they are forced to go to a service, or they can't do this or can't do that. I feel like that's against someone's rights," Hendrix said.

"It demonstrates the need in our community to help people who have mental illness," Chief Communications Officer for City of Memphis Ursula Madden said.

Madden said the city has partnered with Community Alliance for the Homeless. They've started the Work Local program, which pays $10 an hour to homeless people and those in need to pick up blight around the city.

"We feel like it is successful, it's grown, we are proud of it," Madden said. "We are proud, we are helping citizens who are less fortunate and struggling. At this time, we have not forgotten about them."

City of Memphis officials also said so far, 500 people have worked with the Work Local program picking up blight and that the program has grown from two days a week to five.

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