Almost 2 months in, how is sheriff’s homeless effort working?

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 4:24 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’re now almost two months into the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office’s port program which monitors homelessness on private businesses around Washington Road near I-20.

It’s now grown with 32 businesses signed up.

We’ve reported that some are pleased with the work, but others, like 2 Boys Pizza & Grill, are leaving completely.

Despite keeping a tab on those businesses that are joining in, the sheriff’s office says they haven’t been tracking any data.

They say this is due to how new the program is but they say they are working to expand where this effort is headed.

“It’s new. We’re excited about it, and we’re hoping that this is kind of a long-term program that helps us deal with a current problem,” said Capt. Scott Redmon with the sheriff’s office’s south precinct.

It’s a program the sheriff’s office and some businesses on Washington Road say is making a difference.

So then why isn’t there any data to back it up?

“The data that we’re seeing right now, is brand new data. Our intel unit will be working strongly to compile that data as time goes on,” said Redmon.

By data, we mean how many people have they arrested so far? How many have been referred to accountability court?

But they say an arrest should be a last resort.

“We’re kind of a mecca for the homeless. There are a lot of resources here. There’s a lot of outreach that’s going on here in Augusta. And the network out there gets that message out to the homeless people not only here but in other cities. Recently, we had people come as far away as four hours, and dropped off at the Salvation Army,” said Redmon.

Others, like Commissioner Sean Frantom, say this effort still needs more teeth.

Augusta’s current panhandling ordinance was put in place back in 2006 and only holds a tight grip on the downtown Broad Street district and a small district between Hopkins Street and Laney Walker Boulevard.

In exactly one week, the sheriff’s office, marshal’s office, homeless task force, and more are coming to the table to discuss a panhandling ordinance that mirrors Columbia County’s.

They’re hoping to expand where officers can enforce homeless management, but without arresting their way to a solution.