Augusta, GA (WJBF)- Homelessness is a growing problem in the CSRA and one man became victim to that issue. A homeless man was found frozen to death in downtown Augusta three days after Christmas. Now a local leader has made it his mission to help get unsheltered people off the streets of the Garden City.
Willie Walker was a US veteran from Tenille, GA who lived on the streets of Augusta. After he was found frozen to death outside of GAP Ministries in December, the founder of the Freddie Mae Foundation said enough is enough.
“We literally just saw him, like, the first part of December. And everyone was coming up to us and saying Mr. Willie passed and whatnot, and it really hurt because he was such a humble guy,” said Christopher Mulliens.
Mulliens started the Freddie Mae Foundation because he saw a need in the community to help the homeless, especially homeless men. He said that learning of the death of Mr. Willie, as he was called, was as frustrating as it was sad. He says not enough is being done to help those in need.
“We understand that some people go through some things. We understand that, but nobody should be found frozen to death in the street,” Mulliens said. “And again I posed the question ‘What are we doing? What are we doing as a community?’ And so I always said, you know, that we have to start from within.”
City Commissioner Jordan Johnson agreed that more needs to be done and he reached out to Mulliens.
“I think that situation puts us in a position to where we should have an in depth conversation about what it means to be homeless in this city. And explore solutions. Not just shelter solutions but solutions that can help people get out of one life style and move into another,” explained Johnson.
Johnson said that more people in Augusta are close to being homeless than many people think and it’s time to stop thinking about the homeless in stereotypes.
“You know, some folks become homeless for circumstances they can’t control. And to be honest, many people in this city are just one paycheck away from the same situation.”
Johnson said his conversation with Mulliens has prompted him to look harder at the homeless population in Augusta and come up with solutions, which is work he has already begun. Mulliens says that elected officials need to step up, but so do members of the community.
“Augusta is huge. We’re the second largest city in Georgia. It’s somewhere we can find space to house our homeless people,” said Mulliens. “We’ve got to start holding, not only our elected officials accountable, but ourselves. Because it’s plenty of people that ride by our homeless people and walk off and be like, oh, you know, I don’t see them.”
The preliminary homeless count so far this year shows more than 450 people are homeless and that more than 280 of them are unsheltered. Anyone interested in donating time or money to the Freddie Mae Foundation can CLICK HERE for their website.