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Ames Homeless Outreach Team Among Safety Projects After Celia’s Death

 

 

AMES, Iowa --The murder of Celia Barquin Arozamena is a deep wound that remains fresh one week later.  "On behalf of the city, we are still grieving and extremely devastated," said Ames Mayor John Haila as he opened Tuesday's city council meeting.

Still hurting from the past, Tuesday night city council leaders looked forward at what more could be done.  "The most immediate areas of concern have been natural areas and trails that may be prone to encampments," said chief of police Charles Cychosz.

The city of Ames began with action teams clearing brush Monday for better visibility along trails and wooded areas and will continue for weeks.  They will also increase patrols on the trails near Squaw Creek Park and the golf course where Celia was found.  Chief Cychosz said, "Next week there will be similar work done in the bike trail in this area. The bike trail will be closed for a period of time while brush is removed and sight lines are improve."

Despite the efforts, residents like Holly Varnum remain frightened.  "It is because of what happened, I feel less safe than before."  She now carries a whistle because of Celia's death but also approached the city council with a question many residents have been asking ever since it was reported that the alleged killer, Collin Richards was labeled as homeless.  "How should we deal with the homeless and how should we approach them?," she asked.

City leaders shed light on a new homeless outreach program partnership between Ames police and the Emergency Residence Project in Ames that could begin in late fall.  "In light of the tragic events it makes a lot of sense to develop a street outreach program so we are getting to people where they are," said Emergency Residence Project Executive Director Carrie Moser.  Currently there are very few places for the homeless to turn and even fewer resources for organizations like the Emergency Residence project to help them.  The team would include, "Someone from law enforcement, a member from our staff at the shelter and ideally someone from the mental health profession so if someone needs mental health help or they have some addiction we can make that connection right away," said Moser.

It is a positive connection they hope the community can continue to have with their homeless population.  "The actions of an individual should not lead us to label or stereotype a group of people,” said Chief Cychosz.