Augusta leaders discuss homelessness during golf week
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta leaders work to address homelessness and provide resources all year round, but on Tuesday, a committee of commissioners met to “discuss the homeless situation” during Masters Week.
From 2019 to 2020, homelessness in Augusta went up 158 percent. Those numbers are likely even higher since the pandemic.
Community advocates claim, leading up to the tournament, law enforcement might try to push people without homes out of sight from downtown and Washington Road by moving.
Homelessness Task Force members say they want to be proactive because, in the coming weeks, the homeless population might continue grow.
The biggest week in Augusta is just around the corner. But for some, tournament week could make things harder.
Jordan Johnson, Augusta Commission member for District 1 and task force chairman, said: “Homelessness is happening every day, all day. Not just one week out of the year.”
Back in 2019, our I-TEAM found hotels along Washington Road would kick out long-term guests ahead of the tournament. The same thing is happening again, and one commissioner is concerned.
Catherine Smith-McKnight, commissioner for District 3, asked: “Where are these folks going to go? The homeless that stay there?”
McKnight says a woman staying in a Washington Road hotel reached out to her because she’s being kicked out for that one week in April.
“She and others that stay there can go back there, but for the week, they don’t know where they’re going,” said Smith-McKnight.
The number of homeless people living in encampments and congregating along Washington Road is already higher than it was back then. So, the concern is if hotels kick people out this year, even more people will be homeless.
Johnson said: “We shouldn’t be pushing homeless people away for appearance’s sake any time of the year.”
The Salvation Army says typically, those who get kicked out don’t make it to the shelter downtown because they can’t get there. Before the tournament, they’ll start distributing bus passes good for one ride to the Center of Hope.
If you’re a business, the Salvation Army is asking for your help. You can contact the Center of Hope to pick up bus passes and help distribute them to people who need them. If you’re at risk of being kicked out of a hotel, you can contact the center at 706-922-8369 or 706-922-8385 to get a card.
“We’re trying to address homelessness from a comprehensive standpoint year-round, not just one week out of the year,” said Johnson.
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