Augusta’s homeless task force venturing outside of the city to combat homelessness

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AUGUSTA, G.A. (WJBF) – Augusta commissioners are going outside of the city to find ways to combat homelessness.
Under this bridge here on Washington road, you’ll find empty cups, cigarette boxes, and people who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Commissioners Jordan Johnson and Dennis Williams were in Columbus Georgia Tuesday, where city leaders there are facing the same homelessness issue.

“First couple of months I was homeless I was working over there, sleeping outside and still going to work,” said an unidentified man.

This man didn’t want to give us his name, but tells me he’s been homeless for four months after being laid off during the pandemic.

“I got another job, but they don’t pay enough, when you’re making 8 or 9 dollars an hour, that ain’t the cost of living,” he said.

He tells me, he has tried to utilize homeless resources like shelters, but with no transportation, it makes it almost impossible to get help.

“They tell us we need this, this, and this to get in. Then you gotta go through a background check and then you gotta be out by 5 in the morning or 6 in the morning,” he said.

Heads of Augusta’s homeless task force Commissioners Jordan Johnson and Dennis Williams say they’re working diligently to get them help.

“We’re confident that we’re going to put together a product that will affect the lives of so many people in a positive direction utilizing what we already have and capitalizing on what we can bring into the city,” said District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson.

On Tuesday, both commissioners took a trip to Columbus Georgia. Johnson tells me the city is facing some of the same homelessness issues there.

“Ten years ago the mayor came together with members of the community to form a task force similar to what we did and at that time the numbers were pretty high,” said Commissioner Johnson.

He says over the course of that decade the numbers from Columbus’ homeless count went down…. a lot.

Commissioners Johnson and Williams are looking to implement some of the strategies they’ve learned from Columbus city leaders.

“They were looking at the entire aspect of the individual and not just providing the individual with a place to sleep at for the night,” said District 2 Commissioner Dennis Williams.

The most important strategy commissioners took from the trip was working closely with non-profit organizations like Safe Homes and United Way.

“There’s no turf war, there’s no well my organization is doing this my organization is doing that. They’ve actually come together and have streamlined their efforts, not in the form of a one stop shop but in the form of data in the form of communications system. If John Doe is homeless and needs benefits who can we connect him to? Then everyone bans together and tries to work specifically with John Doe,” said Commissioner Johnson.

Both commissioners say they are working diligently with their other non-profit organizations to bring more resources to the homeless population, but changes won’t come overnight.


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