SOUTH AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)-You see them on your way to work, most of the time they are holding up a sign. That sign either says “Homeless need help” or “Need Money”. Something that was an uncommon sight in South Augusta has some people in the community now asking questions.
“Everybody has a story and some people don’t care. They just judge them for where they are at,” says Garden City Rescue, Director Patrick Feistef.
Often times when someone gets down on their luck, they wander the streets trying to figure out how to make the ends meet.
Panhandling is a crime in Georgia,which can lead to a fine or jail time.
Peels sees homeless people in South Augusta often on his walks,
he doesn’t think it’s right to make someone with no money pay a fine.
“As far as the homeless people I think they are not a problem or are being a nuisance at all,” says Steve Peel who lives in South Augusta.
The Sheriff’s and Marshal’s offices say they are aware of the situation and are working together to find a solution. They say this is an extension of a bigger problem and handling these cases with compassion can lead to a better outcome.
The Sheriff’s office says instead of arresting someone, deputies are encouraged to help them find temporary shelter.
“For the most part we average about 20 people a month that we’ve never seen before and are seeing a lot of success, most of the time its people who are just having a hard time,” says Feistef.
Garden City Rescue Mission is one of the few shelters that requires each person to take a breathalyzer test to keep a safe and sober environment. The shelter is faith based with a line up of programs to help men get back on their feet.
“We let them stay for 90 days, we give them breakfast and dinner,” says Director Feistef.