Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series we are covering this month for National Homeless and Youth Awareness Month and Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week (Nov. 16-24). In this story we highlight activities planned for Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week happening in Hinesville.
As the temperatures dip we are reminded of how fortunate we are to be able to cozy up next to a warm heater, sip some hot soup and sleep on a comfortable bed under a mountain of blankets. But not everyone is as fortunate.
According to the National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week website many Americans are teetering on the brink of homelessness, forced to choose between basic necessities like food, rent or medication. Forty-three million Americans live below the poverty level and approximately 549,000 American are homeless on a typical night. Forty-two million Americans are at risk of suffering from hunger and one-in-five children in the U.S. live in poverty.
Most of us are only exposed to homelessness based on what we see on TV or in larger cities like New York, California, Atlanta and to some extent Savannah.
And there are homeless and hungry people right here in Liberty County.
Homelessness is different in Hinesville,” Hinesville Homeless Prevention Assistant Program Director Kristin Bryant said. “And I think that, especially during Hunger and Homeless awareness week, that is one of the main things we try and educate people about.”
Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week is being observed in the city of Hinesville the week of Nov. 18-22.
“A lot of time when people think of homeless we tend to think of what it looks like in places like New York, Atlanta and even Savannah,” Bryant said. “But that is not what it looks like here in Hinesville. “Most of the people we assist are not what you consider the chronic homeless, we do have a few of those but for the most part we deal with people who have suddenly hit a tough time.
They’ve lost their job and don’t have family here. Some are ex-military who got out of the service but were not as prepared as they thought they were and homeless is where they ended up.”
Bryant said the HHPP is where homeless families can seek assistance during troubled times.
“I have seen the impact the program makes especially in keeping people in their homes,” she said. “But we do need more affordable housing and jobs here”
Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition President Jim McIntosh said statistics show the poverty rate in Liberty County is 17.7 percent. In Long County it is 17.9 percent.
Poverty, lack of affordable housing and lack of jobs is just part of the cycle that could lead to homelessness.
Lack of affordable health care, mental illness and domestic violence are other contributing factors.
McIntosh said the Coalition has spent $18,500 in services to clients in our local area from January through Nov. 1. The primary assistance they’ve provided is temporary emergency sheltering for families in need at local hotels until clients are able to find a place to live through the HHPP or other means. So far the Coalition has 52 cases of emergency sheltering. The Coalition has also assisted clients with rent, utilities, food and clothing when they had funds available.
In October the city of Hinesville recognized the efforts of the Coalition and the work done by McIntosh by signing a proclamation naming Oct. 19, Jim McIntosh Day.
McIntosh said there is still much work to be done. The Coalition plans to have a live static display at Bradwell Park beginning on Monday Nov. 18 entitled Homeless: Life on the Street.
The display will allow folks to get a better understanding of what a real homeless encampment is.
On Nov. 19, The Coalition is hosting the Samaritan luncheon from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at J.C. Lewis Ford. The event is to establish a network of shelters and resources for the homeless during extreme weather conditions. The event is only open for leaders of Faith-based organizations and churches.
McIntosh said he has seen an increase in homelessness among the veterans in our area in the past year. Because of that the Coalition is attempting to put together a program, tentatively set for Nov. 20, at the Hinesville VA Clinic from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The program will give veterans access to resources available to them through the DAV, state department of labor and other organizations.
The city of Hinesville is also hosting a series of events for Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. On Nov. 18, there will be a lunch and learn, faith-based community outreach session starting at 11:30 a.m. in the Hinesville Room at Hinesville City Hall.
Live Oak Church of God will screen the movie, “Beyond the Blackboard,” Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. The 90-minute movie is about a young teacher and her relationship with students experiencing homelessness.
The City of Hinesville Community Development Department will deliver complete meal kits that will be used to stock emergency food pantries on Nov. 20 at 11 a.m.
Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown will sign a proclamation at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 21, proclaiming Nov. 17-24 as Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. On Nov. 22, there will be a Game of Life educational event held at Snelson Golden Middle School at 1 p.m.
Project Homeless Connect and Mass Mobile Food Drop will be at Liberty County High School from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Nov. 23. They will be providing one-stop services and critical resources to individuals experiencing homelessness.
The week will culminate with the 17th annual Mayor’s Service of Songs, Prayers and Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. at Victory Assembly of God.