AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Augusta Homelessness Task Force met today with Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. to outline the short and long-term goals for battling homelessness in the city.
Commissioners Jordan Johnson and Dennis Williams told the mayor that the task force has been gathering data from other cities for research on how to address homelessness.
During the meeting, Mayor Davis also presented a plan to the task force for creating a one-stop center for the homeless. The mayor says this facility will provide resources to those facing homelessness at every level, from employment resources to rental assistance to health care to providing shelter.
The center would maintain a job center that can be used to help the homeless population secure employment. And in order to make this process more efficient, the job center coordinator would maintain an agreement with local businesses to either: get first notice of upcoming positions or be allowed to slot a certain number of candidates to at least receive an interview, so that applications don’t become lost in the shuffle of a job bank’s filter programming.
This facility would allow for those facing homelessness to maintain a mailing address for up to 18 months and those facing chronic homelessness indefinitely.
With the threat of COVID-19, these common areas would be designed as best as possible to prevent the spread of illnesses. They should include: a study room/quiet area, kitchen, showers, bathrooms, laundry room, storage, computer lab/job center, entertainment room (or a hall designed to easily convert into a semi-large gathering space), and a kennel.
A range of health care services should be integrated into this facility. It should include full-time nurses, full or part-time counselors to deal with mental health and chemical dependency, a contracted nutritionist, and a part-time veterinarian. This could very well work as a connection with Augusta University.
Legal aid should be offered primarily for those facing evictions, one-time grant program for those facing eviction due to demonstrated inability to make rent payment, one-time grant program for those who need assistance with a security deposit that will lift them out of homelessness, child care, coaching to map a path out of homelessness, assistance securing insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, HUD housing vouchers, SNAP, WIC, veterans benefits, ID Cards, transportation provided by the transit system, and other available public resources.
Other short-term goals
These include creating more warming or cooling centers and get more food for the homeless. The next steps for the subcommittee are to get these sub-groups established. They will meet based on when they have information to share.
The task force did previously cite creating a center as a potential long-term goal, however, no immediate decisions were made during the meeting today. The task force will continue to research to develop short-term goals in the coming weeks.