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Programs help the homeless all year

Activists remind public problem isn’t seasonal

POSTED: December 19, 2011 9:28 a.m.

Homelessness is a year-round problem, which makes homeless prevention a year-round effort for local agencies and organizations committed to helping people in need.

“I think our community has a lot of people and agencies that want to help because a lot of people here really care,” said Daisy Jones, coordinator for Hinesville’s Homeless Prevention Program. “For example, the (Liberty County Sheriff’s Office) recently collected and distributed food for low-income senior citizens. County Commissioner (Gary) Gilliard, as well as several local businesses, are collecting food and toys for low-income families during the week before Christmas.”

One local organization Jones said was committed to helping homeless children is the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., which recently donated Christmas gifts to 16 homeless families.

The organization’s motto is “A Homeless Child Cannot Wait,” meaning a homeless child cannot wait for programs to get funded, for parents to get retrained for jobs, or for leaders to figure out if or how to get tax breaks for donations.

Jones; Pastor Hermon Scott, director of the Liberty County Homeless Coalition; and Pastor Katrina Deason, director of the Liberty County Manna House; described the changing face of homelessness, which many people don’t recognize.

“The face of homelessness is looking more and more like me and you,” Scott said. “Now we’re seeing the educated, the business people who’ve lost their businesses. The face of the homeless has changed.”

Deason said the changing face of homelessness is tied to the economy.

“Homelessness and hunger go hand in hand,” she explained. “If you are having a homeless problem, there is a food problem too, so that’s why we try to work together with the city and county programs.”

Deason said she received phone calls during the Thanksgiving food giveaways that some of the people standing in line to receive help had jobs. She told the callers that even though many people are unemployed today, an even greater number of people are underemployed. Minimum wage jobs rarely meet minimum needs, she said.

“One pillar of (Hinesville’s) program is education,” Jones added. “We have life skills classes every month that are required for the families we’re currently helping. Finance and budgeting is emphasized most. We also encourage (high school) dropouts to earn their GED, which will improve their chances of getting a job. We want to give them the information and resources to be more equipped to make better choices.”

Jones said her office currently is helping 15 families but that hundreds more are served in some way, even if it means referring them to another agency for assistance.

One form of assistance the Homeless Prevention Program no longer has funds for is help in paying utility bills. Even though it has no money to help those calling, the number of requests is captured in order to justify requests for increased funding, she said.

“We are so very grateful for the contributions we’ve received in November and December, but hunger and homelessness is a constant issue,” Scott said, noting that the homeless still need help after the holidays. “We really need support year-round.”

“People’s hearts are always open during the holidays, but we try to think ahead for next year,” Deason added. “Maybe we can become known as the city with a heart.”

Jones said the Liberty County Manna House and Hinesville’s Homeless Prevention Program staff will sponsor an outreach and open house from 4-6 p.m. Dec. 23. The Manna House will provide a Christmas meal for up to 250 people, while Jones’ staff will take applications for assistance.

Another program to help the homeless will take place from 5-8:30 p.m. Dec. 22 at the Hinesville National Guard Armory, where Savannah Feed the Hungry will give away food, toys, clothes and furniture to needy families.

Ongoing with these events, Hinesville’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and other restaurants owned by the Hodges Management Company are collecting donations in December for their Dishing Out Meals: Fighting Homelessness and Hunger in Our Community campaign.

 

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