City leaders address rising homelessness in Augusta

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 6:38 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - It’s an ongoing issue city leaders have been trying to tackle over the last couple of years.

Augusta’s Homeless Task Force says the number of people without a home is still increasing. Officials say they can’t give us an exact number until the next annual count, but we know it’s over 570 since the last census in March.

The task force’s goal is to address the issue of homelessness in the city through several outreach programs. We spoke with members of the task force to find out what they are doing to help the situation.

Several factors contribute to homelessness, but the task force tells us the biggest one is the rise in rent for families.

They say the average three-bedroom home from three years ago, which cost $800 to $1,000 a month, is now up to $1,300 to $1,700 a month. Putting minimum wage families on the front line

“There is an increasing risk of homelessness that continues in our community,” said Community Development Manager, Housing & Community Development, Daniel Evans.

Evans is a member of the Homeless Task Force. He says families are still recovering from the pandemic, which has created the greatest strain on minimum-wage workers.

“It has not been as dramatic as we were fearing it would, but the continued issues with the economy and the ability of folks to gain traction with the rental market have led to increased numbers of homeless individuals in our community,” he said.

Since 2019, programs like the Rapid Re-Housing program have been able to provide more than a million dollars in relief for people struggling to pay, but the demand for shelters continues to rise past the resources available.

Program Coordinator, Marion Barnes Center for the Homeless, Bethany Trapp, said: “Families are having to make the decision between going to stay somewhere that’s not safe. It could be an abandoned building. It could be a car. It could be a bus station. It could be anywhere that you wouldn’t even think to sleep.”

Trapp provides on-the-ground resources and outreach for people experiencing homelessness. She says there is an environment where people don’t want to reach back out for help, creating another gap to overcome.

Evans said: “We do anticipate continued struggles ahead, but some initiatives that will be put forward in 2023 should help to make some gains there and increase the level of housing stability across our community.”

Commissioner Jordan Johnson, who is also involved with the Homeless Task Force says since the recent tiny home ordinances have been approved, developers have started to express interest in putting affordable housing programs here in Augusta.