AUGUSTA, Ga. – On cold, rainy nights like the ones we’ve had this week, a warm bed can make a big difference.
“It really, really helps us understand what our ‘why’ is. Why we care, why the task force was put together, why the commission invested in this. Because truth be told, folks are needing this service,” District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson said.
Today, May Park Community Center opened as a warming center, providing a safe place for many to seek a form of shelter.
“So, you know, this isn’t a 24-hour residential service. But this is just an opportunity for folks to escape from the cold and escape from the rain over the next few nights. And so, folks will have an opportunity to just come to get a coffee and warm up at night, there are snacks and water provided,” Johnson said.
Commissioners Jordan Johnson and Dennis Williams head the city’s new task force to address homelessness. Opening a warming center was the first goal on the list.
“Folks all over the city, far and wide are able to take advantage of this service,” Johnson said.
COVID-19 restrictions cut the capacity of the center down to 40 people, and with 24-hour protection from the sheriff’s office, it serves as a refuge option for the next four nights.
The task force has bigger plans in-store too.
“The goal is to provide additional space for our homeless, and to establish a centralized homeless shelter,” Williams, District 2 Commissioner, said.
They want to work towards a shelter with job training, baggage storage, and mailboxes.
“If I was a homeless person, and I was looking for a job, I don’t have an address. How can I get a job? So, these are some of the things that we’re looking at,” Williams said.
The service at May Park is just one step towards solving a much bigger issue.
Check-in at the center starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. Guests will have to be out by 10 a.m.
And again, it will be open as a night warming center until Tuesday. Johnson says then officials will monitor the weather and determine whether it can stay open to a later date.