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Students put face on homeless
1108 homeless exercise
First Presbyterian Christian Academy students Patrick Steele, 17, Caroline Riley, 17, and Rachel Parlette, 15, demonstrate the homelessness problem in Hinesville near City Hall on Thursday. - photo by Photo by Jen Alexander McCall
For a short time Thursday, some Hinesville teens set aside the comfort of permanent shelter and a guarantee of food, funds and life’s little necessities to put a face on the homeless situation in Hinesville, as Homelessness Awareness Month begins.
Students from First Presbyterian Christian Academy and Youth Challenge Academy occupied street corners near area businesses and the main gate at Fort Stewart as part of a “visual statistics simulation” put together by Amelia Lee, coordinator for the city’s Next Step Program.
Lee said the majority of homeless individuals who participate in the Next Step program are single mothers.  “People may see a homeless person and think, ‘Get a job, bum,’ but they don’t see the person behind that,” she said.
“They don’t see the woman whose husband died and left her and their children in a bind. They don’t see the wife who was beat up by her husband and has nowhere to go.”
A census taken in January this year showed about
200 homeless people living in Hinesville, but that number doesn’t account for dependents — often children — who are affiliated with the ones counted, Lee said.
The Next Step program, which provides temporary housing to individuals and families, is one of a handful designed to help homeless and struggling residents become self-sufficient.  The city’s community development department also assists people through its Assets for Independence and Individual Development Account programs.
“Our main goal is to help them help themselves,” Lee said.
Kaelan Dorr, 17, was one of a handful of FPCA students stationed on Highway 84 on Thursday morning, holding a sign that alerted passersby to the problem of homelessness. Dorr and his peers were brought to the event by their teachers.
“I signed up because we’re giving homelessness a face,” Dorr said. “Everyone has slowed down to look, and a preacher stopped and offered to take us to get some food.
“I feel like I’m doing something for our community,” he said.
Students Megan Matthews and Aly Hamilton tried to paint a sorrowful picture of homelessness outside Fort Stewart’s main gate and received varied reactions from drivers. While Hamilton said she noticed many younger male drivers turning away and others speeding up
as they passed, Matthews saw some positive responses.
“I think people might be more open to this [issue] than I would have thought before,” she said.
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