A few dozen people still living in outdoor homeless camps on Savannah’s east side have until Saturday morning to move. Cindy Murphy Kelley, executive director of the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, says police and city officials are urging the camp residents to move before 8 a.m. Saturday, when heavy equipment will begin preparing the area for construction work. City officials and social service groups have been working for several weeks to relocate more than 90 people living in the wooded area off east President Street.
The lifestyle of the homeless is rugged and unforgiving. While Macon has several shelters that are open during the day, only one—the Salvation Army—lets people sleep overnight. And with only a couple dozen beds available, lots of people end up in the elements. About fifty of Macon's civic leaders got a taste of what that's like Thursday. At Central City Park, people gathered around campfires and chatted. No one would have mistaken them for homeless people, with their North Face jackets.
Kay Elam, Executive Director of Elam's Women Shelter, estimates that the homeless population in Troup County is around 700 people. One idea suggested by Elam is a bus route that loops around the city, charging $1 per passenger.
The board overseeing Savannah's homeless authority has sacked the agency's executive director. Mark Baggett came under scrutiny after city officials froze funding to the authority because of overdue payments. Board members stuck with Baggett for months, however, saying he shouldn't be held responsible for underfunding by federal and state officials.
Officials who oversee millions of dollars in public money for Savannah's homeless services are blaming unpaid insurance payments on chronic underfunding. The Savannah Homeless Authority board voted to keep its top leadership -- even after the city's chief executive threatened to cut off funding to the agency. Board chairman Larry Lee says, the agency can account for every cent and will keep its director.
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.
A public-private collaboration wants to find Southeast Georgia's 100 most seriously mentally ill patients. The goal is to identify the area's most at-risk population for homelessness, jail or hospitalization -- and give them extra resources to stay out of trouble. Once indentified, patients will work with peer navigators to lower recidivism.