On Sunday Jan. 26, the Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition held a Memorial Service to pay honor and remember the 82 homeless individuals that died throughout the state of Georgia in 2019.
Among those 82 were eight homeless veterans.
Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Col. Bryan L. Logan spoke about the homeless veterans noting it was time more attention was drawn to the matter.
“Many Americans and as has been stated a large number of our veterans face homelessness every year,” Logan said. “Men and women who have served their country yet at their time of calling they were fending for themselves on the streets. Our veterans deserve more. And our veterans are found to be at a greater risk for being homeless when compared to their civilian counterpart. Rapid change in social network, economic status or treatment for PTSD are all risk factors for homelessness. Events such as these remind us how quickly our circumstances can change, and it should be a call for action.”
Coalition President Jim McIntosh said the number of deaths was down from the 110 they had in 2018, but noted, “That doesn’t mean it won’t go back up.”
He added that among those who died this year was an infant. “And from our perspective there was no reason whatsoever that a homeless infant had to die like that in the state of Georgia.”
He said a variety of factors have contributed to the deaths of the homeless. The outdoor elements of extreme heat and cold contributed to some death, the lack of Good Samaritan and emergency shelters also contribute to the problem as does poor nutrition, poor healthcare and existing medical conditions.
“There is also the issue of violence against the homeless,” he added. “Even among the homeless. We had a case in Savannah we recently resolved where a homeless man was charged with homicide. So even within their own community there are difficulties that are straining the situation.”
McIntosh also made a big announcement at the Memorial service regarding the future of the Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition. He said major changes are ahead.
“After 10 years the Coalition has decided that being a small region group wasn’t going to accomplish what our goals were supposed to be, which is to provided services to the homeless as we need to,” he said. “The decision was made to step down the Liberty Regional Homeless Coalition and now we are the Georgia Homeless Coalition. And we are going to start a major expansion, primarily in the east and of Georgia to begin with.
McIntosh added they will continue to expand their coverage area as funding grows.
He said the services that the Coalition currently provides in Liberty and Long Count will remain the same but also improve as they work to grow their community partners and networks.
The newly formed Georgia Homeless Coalition will begin to do a needs assessment in Wayne County to determine what services are needed for that area.
He said the board will be appointing a Volunteer Coordinator for each county.
“They will represent the Coalition in that county and develops the programs and services based on the needs of that county,” he said.
McIntosh said at the end of 2018, the state of Georgia reported 38,000 homeless students in the school systems.
“And then you have to take in account the siblings and parents of those kids,” he said.
McIntosh said that effective Feb. 1 their new website will be ready at: http://georgiahomelesscoaltion.org