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Hinesville hosts first homeless summit
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Assistant City Manager Kenneth Howard hosted Hinesville’s first Homeless Information Summit Wednesday, bringing advocates from city, state and national organizations to fight what the mayor said is a major problem for Hinesville.
The key speakers included Jacalyn Baker with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs Housing Trust Fund for Homeless, Michael German with the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness and Lavanda Brown with Savannah’s Union Mission. And more than a dozen local community leaders and faith-based organizations sent representatives to show support for the cause.
“We’re all are in this together. It’s important we work as a team,” Howard said. “We have more homeless individuals than ever.”
Mayor Jim Thomas agreed, saying he is fully behind the effort.
“Three or four weeks ago I didn’t know the extent of the problem, but it’s very serious,” Thomas said in his opening remarks.
Thomas provided information about the nature of the homeless here to guests. He said the majority of those who he considers homeless are transient and often not from Hinesville. They are often young, retired military or have been dropped off in the city.
Both Howard and the mayor said the primary issue is that people in need of services are going to numerous shelters and churches and receiving services, but individually. The main goal of the summit was for the organizations that currently serve the homeless to pool resources and energy in a more organized and effective way. City leaders are pushing for a central entity to provide services, as well as keep a data base on every person who receives service.
Howard invited Union Mission’s Brown to speak because he said her program makes for a great model of the type of organization sought here.
“Eighty-seven percent of those we’ve served are no longer homeless,” Brown said.
She said this percentage is significant considering the Savannah shelter has served 5,000 homeless people and helped prevent 6,000 other people from falling into homelessness.
After a city-wide survey, Howard found about 226 homeless individuals counted over a three months.
To help with funding for a non-profit (501c3) organization, Baker presented state funding options. She said Hinesville’s best option would be to apply for an Emergency Shelter Grant which addresses current homeless individuals as well as preventive measures for those close to being homeless.
Hinesville also got federal support from German and the Interagency Council on Homelessness. He said his job is to evaluate and help cities get a plan to combat the problem.
German also said that while people tend to believe doing nothing will eventually make the problem go away, they are wrong. He said doing nothing costs the city (and taxpayers) a lot because the homeless often rely on pubic services such as emergency rooms for medical treatment. Because they can’t pay, the hospital is left to eat the cost.
German agrees that Hinesville should pull resources together.
“Every level of government should be involved,” German said.

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