I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Lack of shelters in Augusta

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019
News 12 at 6/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's hard to imagine sleeping outside and nobody wants to think about sleeping out there with their children but for hundreds of families, they have no choice. The need to house families is nearing a crisis point.

"Last month we had children 40 just children not counting the parent," Captain Phillip Canning said.

The Salvation Army recently added family rooms at its shelter. The building was built in the 70's and was equipped to house the homeless population at that time.

"The need we largely saw was single male clients and a few single females. As the decades progressed it's becoming more normal to have a family some type of family unit in the shelter," Canning said.

There are about half a dozen shelters in Augusta, but the Salvation Army is the only place in town that can house families in an emergency.

"What I can tell you is that we used not to have a family shelter because there wasn't a need for it," Canning said.

The city knew about the need years ago. In 2005 the State of Georgia wrote in a community assessment of Augusta, " it is obvious that in spite of the efforts of humanitarian organizations, the majority of the housing needs remain unmet. The need is especially high among homeless families with children."

Again, this warning came out 14-years-ago.

"The immediate need is the affordable housing," Canning said. "I think we all know what needs to happen but the problem is getting it to happen. Just as the problem is complex so is the solution."

The solution is more than housing, it's teaching families how to research rentals, how to budget money and how to overcome obstacles.

"Barrier after barrier after barrier and it's tiring and it's exhausting and we have individuals and families in our community that that is their everyday life that it's a crisis. They don't know how they will make it to tonight and they don't get a vacation from it."

Augusta is also lacking a day shelter. The Salvation Army isn't equipped to house families for 24 hours so they have to leave during the day. Captain Canning hopes to build a new shelter that is equipped to house families but it's only a discussion right now.