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Ceremony calls for action for homeless

POSTED: December 27, 2017 5:00 a.m.
Jeff Whitten/

Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition volunteer Tracy Smith from Long County lights Melinda Schneider’s candle as Col. Jason Wolter, Fort Stewart garrison commander, looks on Thursday at Bradwell Park during the Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition’s memorial ceremony for the homeless at Bradwell Park.

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Homeless from 1A

As Christmas lights twinkled and candles glowed, Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition President the Rev. Jim McIntosh read statistic after statistic Thursday night near the end of the group’s annual homeless memorial ceremony at Bradwell Park.
There are more than 200 homeless students in Liberty County Schools so far this school year, he said.
There were 66 homeless people who died on the streets in Georgia in 2017, including 11 veterans.
At least 17.3 percent of people in Liberty County live in poverty, a number McIntosh said doesn’t include 3.9 percent of soldiers on Fort Stewart, McIntosh said. That percentage climbs to 17.9 percent in Long County 21.3 percent in McIntosh County and 29.6 percent in Tattnall County.
He said homelessness, after a decade of going down, has risen 7 percent this year.
“In the United States tonight, 540,000 Americans will be living on the street,” McIntosh said. “That does not include the number that are in the shelters. In the great society we have, I can’t believe that we would get to that point — that we have got

to that point.”
That was after an approximately hour-long candlelight vigil alongside Hinesville’s Christmas tree. The event was held Thursday because that was the longest day of the year.
It included prayers and remarks from McIntosh, a Catholic bishop, the Rev. A.D. Shaw, Imam Terrance James Mubarek of Hinesville, Rabbi Robert Haas of Savannah, Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Jason Wolter, Garrison Command Sgt. Major. Martin Conroy, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Adna Chaffee IV, Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette and Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown.
“We take a lot for granted, don’t we,” Brown said. “Most of us are preparing for Christmas … worrying about sleeping arrangements for guests coming in from out of town or stressing about finding that perfect last minute gift. At the same time, others are worrying about where they’re going to sleep tonight, and tomorrow, and the day after that. They’re worrying about where their next meals are going to come from, about how to keep their children safe and healthy.”
Speakers also stressed the need to find solutions to help people get off the street.
Lovette said the county’s ultimate goal is to eradicate homelessness, but as he attended Thursday’s memorial and after hearing the names of those who died in 2017 called, he thought, “there but by the grace of God go I.”
Mubarek said the problem of homelessness transcends race and religion.
“As we address this particular social condition, we have to come to the table to see what kind of contribution we all can make to solve this,” he said, and thanked McIntosh and the coalition for “getting in contact with the Muslim community.”
Haas agreed.
“I want to echo the imam’s remarks,” the rabbi said, adding, “It’s an American issue. It’s not a local issue or a state issue. It’s an issue we all deal with.”
Wolter, who spoke after Conroy read the names of the 11 homeless veterans who died in 2017 in Georgia, said those at Thursday’s ceremony were there “for an unfortunate reason.”
“We stand here because they were unable to find a roof to shelter them,” he said.

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