AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Fewer people may soon be living on the streets of Augusta.

Today, the Marion Barnes Resource Center for the homeless opened its doors along East Boundary Street.

A first-of-its-kind in Augusta, this center is to be the area’s common point for assessment, service and referral for people who are homeless or close to it. And while today is the first day, the director said the phones are already ringing off the hook.

Homelessness– a crisis in Augusta, with on average 3-400 people living on the streets or in shelters each night.

Wilhelmina Green, a case manager at the center, said homelessness encompasses much more than a person you may see pushing a buggy in downtown Augusta: “There are homeless who are living out of their vehicles, living in wooded areas in our community, and many times they have the means, or should I say sometimes they have the means, to get to a place where they can get themselves cleaned up so they can go to work or school. But, they don’t have a brick and mortar building to go home to at night.”

Green says it could be your coworker.. But you could never know it.

Backed by HUD, the Marion Barnes Resource Center is a new concept to Augusta. Workers are not just directing people to a shelter– they work to get to the root of issues that have caused clients to be homeless and walking through their doors.

“I think we’re going to streamline the process, somewhat. Time is of the essence when dealing with issues of housing insecurity, and we want to make sure we have them go to the resource that’s going to best fit, or best meet the needs they have. Everyone’s needs are different,” Green said.

“We’re not going to hand them a phone number and say ‘here you can call this number.’ We’re going to make those calls for them. We’re going to link those services. We’re going to get those appointments,” resource coordinator, Lynda Barrs, said.

The program wouldn’t be possible without key partnerships… working hand in hand with the sheriff’s office, the school board, family and child services, and many more.

“We want that shelter stay for that family to be shorter if they have to go, and we want there to be housing at the end of the day. We don’t want to see anybody on our streets in Augusta,” Barrs concluded.

The Marion Barnes Center brings Augusta into compliance with the HEARTH act, signed into law in 2009 by President Obama. HEARTH stands for Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing.

To contact the Marion Barnes Resource Center, please call (706) 724-8588.