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Thursday, February 28, 2019

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Big problems need big solutions. Our I-Team has been showing you the faces behind Augusta's housing problem for the last year.
Now agencies and city leaders are teaming up to fix it. Their plan to repair Augusta boils down to three things more shelters, more affordable housing, and more education.

Code Enforcement, Housing and Development, a commissioner and a judge all met inside the same library our I-Team found homeless seeking shelter. The panel of powerhouses spoke about solutions. "Some of the things we are working on...there are two tracks an immediate short term track that is to work and create a day shelter," Hawthorne Welcher said. He also wants to build a community for homeless veterans and to redevelop old neighborhoods.

Old dilapidated homes are the reason some families become homeless. "Unfortunately, tenants feel like the only recourse they have is to withhold rent," Kahlim Barclay said. Last year the attorney with Georgia Legal Services had about 90 eviction cases. Tenants often ask their landlord to make repairs and when the repairs are not made they either call Code Enforcement or withhold rent. Our I-Team has seen both lead to evictions.

"By the time it gets to me its either an eviction is being threatened or has been filed," Barclay said. And by then it may be too late. "It's very difficult. Actually these evictions have a lasting effect on these families. Sometimes the cost of avoiding this is $500 and they don't have that," Barclay said. "$500 is a lot it can keep people out of situation where their credit is effected and their rental history is effected to the point they cant rent anymore."

Georgia Legal Service and the other agencies are now working together to Repair Augusta. They plan to do that with tenant education, more development, and shelters. Education is one of their biggest concerns. People often don't know their rights or responsibilities as tenants or landlords. Georgia Legal Services is now offering free legal advice to tenants beginning 2 p.m. every Wednesday at the Augusta-Richmond County Downtown Library.