Columbus is committing nearly $200,000 over three years for a new homeless initiative. Three private organizations also have provided matching funds. The long-term goal is to create a single place for homeless people to receive services. In the short-term, officials want to hire a director for the initiative.
Officials estimate 1,500 people in Columbus don’t have a place to sleep on any given night.
Scott Ferguson with the United Way in Columbus says other Georgia cities have larger homeless populations. But he says Columbus is ambitious and ultimately wants to end homelessness in the city.
He says hiring someone to focus on the initiative full-time will be a big step toward that goal.
“Their job is to make this plan alive, to keep it going, to face the hurdles when they’re thrown in front of us," he said. "It’s going to be a tough job but there are people out there that have that skill set, to bring people around the table, that have the passion, that have a business sense.”
The United Way will provide office space for the executive director.
Rick McKnight, a member of the city’s homeless taskforce, says the city is taking a broader approach. For example, he says Columbus hopes to offer a single location for counseling and other services for the homeless.
“Putting the needed services together in some sort of a one stop shop is very important," he said. "Right now they can’t spend the night in a shelter without a valid ID. But where do they get the ID? At the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is 20 miles out, at the very end of the county.”
The city also hopes to offer transitional housing for the homelessness at some point.