AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The death of Willie Walker last December brought more of Augusta’s attention to the plight of the homeless. This new proposal would get more people safely off the street with a new roof over their heads.
Pushed by the pandemic homelessness in Augusta is a growing concern.
“I mean this is an issue, a problem it is not going away it’s one we sort of brushed it aside a little bit and we’ve talked about it. But I’m ready to act on it. I’m ready, really ready, to move on with this homeless shelter.” said Hawthorne Welcher, Director of Housing and Development.
Augusta’s Housing and Development Department is proposing using two point two million dollars in American Rescue Act funds to build a “non-congregate” homeless shelter, the city’s homeless task force calling it a first step.
“We give just a little bit to start, not enough to complete so we have enough to come up with a reasonable shelter,” says Commissioner Dennis Williams who is the Co-Chair.
City officials knowing the money can be used to build a shelter but they’re not as sure about operating it.
“I hope we’re talking to the Salvation Army they’re looking at building a homeless shelter right there by the James Brown Arena working with community partners who do this for a living. I think that’s very smart on our end because they’re the experts not us,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.
Location will be an issue and City officials are saying they want to avoid having to buy land.
“Have to look at properties the City currently owns because like I was saying yesterday, we don’t really want to spend money on it when we don’t really have to,” said Co-chair Williams.
“I think right now from a locality perspective we have some sites in mind we’re sort of working through the administrator’s office on that. It’s my hope we will have a plan between now and the next 60 to 90 days,” said Welcher.
And while the administrative services committee did embrace the idea of a new homeless shelter, City leaders like the mayor say there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.