Augusta, GA -
Homelessness is a major issue in the Garden City. Last month’s historic ice storm forced many people without a place to live inside various shelters throughout Augusta. There are few beds and fewer overnight stays available.
"I moved out of my adopted parents' house in 2011 because I wasn't getting along with my mom very well, but at the same time, wanted to learn how to take care of myself," says Chance Washington, who is homeless.
"Well, I wound up doing drugs and alcohol and went to prison and paroled out here to the Salvation Army," says Jose Allen, who is homeless.
"My girlfriend was an alcoholic and I was tired of being broken every day, so I left her," says Chris Wilson, who is homeless.
Wilson, 24, was one of many homeless individuals who sought shelter from this year's historic winter storm. During that time, he struggled to pull himself together. "I start wondering where I'm going. I have a lot of worries and concerns, I got a son and a daughter out there," he says.
"For a homeless person living in Augusta, it's a serious struggle," says Augusta resident Melvin Kelly.
Kelly is a homeowner now, but he too found himself homeless after relocating to Georgia from New Jersey, looking for a fresh start in the South. Now, he wants to help others bridge the gap between homelessness and home ownership. "They only allow you 28 days, overall, between three shelters. So, being rotated from the next shelter to the next shelter to the next shelter was the toughest thing because it's pressure [to] know that you got 365 days in the year, but you only have 28 days to stay in three shelters," he says.
Kelly penned a letter detailing the shelter limitations to federal, state, and local leaders. He feels the issue of homelessness resta with the government and wants Augusta to establish a public homeless commission. "They're going to need to create more structures or operate other facilities that are operated by the government, because it's their responsibility, instead of leaving all the weight on private shelters," Kelly says. "It takes more than 15 days to find a job, it takes more than 15 days to find a nice place to stay."
"Food, clothing, a safe place to stay, shelter, but most importantly, our mission is rebuilding lives in Christ. We know that if we give them a good foundation of faith, and without that faith, they can't have hope," says Rusty March, Augusta Rescue Mission's executive director.
Augusta Rescue Mission offers 15 days to those without a place to live. The shelter also offers a year-long program complete with medication help, and even help with landing a job.
"We used to go longer on our overnight stay, like 30 days, and then they could come back after a period of time, but that was just revolving doors. We actually want to transition their lives," Marsh says.
Marsh adds that, while the Augusta Rescue Mission needs financial help from the community, it really needs the public’s help with providing jobs for the men going through the transition. They have six months to find employment, and he says they have seen an increase.