Through its Homeless Prevention Program, Hinesville collaborates with the Liberty County Board of Education, the United Way of the Coastal Empire and other service providers to help homeless individuals and families find temporary shelter.
“We provide hotel vouchers to the EconoLodge for persons who qualify for assistance in accordance with the (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) definition of homelessness and Georgia Department of Community Affairs requirements,” Homeless Prevention Coordinator Daisy Jones said. “On average, we issue two or three hotel vouchers per week, many to single adults without children.”
Jones said her office receives referrals from the BoE, United Way, local churches or other agencies dedicated to helping the homeless and the hungry, including the Liberty County Homeless Coalition and the Manna House. If the need is verified and funds are available, her office will issue vouchers good for 10 nights in a local motel, usually the EconoLodge.
The 10-night vouchers are not always enough time for some individuals and families to find more permanent accommodations on their own. Jennifer Darsey, area director for the United Way, said that’s when they contact her office.
“If they’ve already used up the 10-nights voucher they got from the Homeless Prevention Program, sometimes they’ll reach out to us for help,” said Darsey, who said her local United Way office has paid for 49 nights in local motels since September 2012. “We really don’t have a time limitation. If a family has a move-in date for more permanent shelter, we try to help them as long as we can.”
Pamela Farrie, BoE school social worker and homeless liaison, said she gets referrals for homeless children through school counselors, the Homeless Prevention Program and the United Way. She said there currently are 10 children of homeless families temporarily residing at the EconoLodge. There have been as many as 25 children there at one time, she said. She knows the number of children because the BoE has authorized a school bus to pick up these children for school at the motel in the mornings and return them to the motel in the afternoons.
Farrie said some of the homeless children she has worked with during the five years she has been the school system’s homeless liaison are what she calls “unaccompanied youths.” Many of these children have been kicked out of the family home. Other children were abandoned by their parents, she said.
She said the BoE and the city were able to help the homeless through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan in July 1987.
According to the HUD website, the McKinney-Vento Act provides a working definition for homelessness while also providing supportive housing programs for the homeless. These programs are backed by federal funds administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and HUD. It also provides several programs and funding administered by the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services.
Darsey said many of the homeless her organization works with recently have been released from jail. Because many of them are on probation, she said they’re not allowed to leave the county.
State Probation Officer Robin Stewart confirmed that all felon inmates released on probation are supervised in the county of residence. They have to stay here unless they have what he called a “legitimate address” to go to. He also said some probationers are banned from certain counties. Others who want to transfer to another state have to wait until they get permission from that state to transfer, he said.
Stewart added he is not aware of restrictions on inmates released from jail after being locked up for misdemeanor violations.