Panhandlers on Albany mayor's radar screen -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Panhandlers on Albany mayor's radar screen

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – The Mayor of Albany says city leaders need to do something about a growing number of panhandlers and beggars on the streets.

Mayor Willie Adams says he doesn't want to harass or lock up homeless people. He does want the city to find a way to help them get jobs and a better life.

Mayor Adams says he is hearing from more and more people about the number of panhandlers and homeless on the streets of Albany. After being named one of the poorest cities in the nation, with a poverty rate of more than 25 percent, he says it's obvious why the problem is growing. Now the question is, can they help these people?

This is home for Colin Bailey. Under the bypass bridge on North Slappey Boulevard, one of Albany's busiest roads.

Bailey says "Nobody bothers me. I sleep good. It's noisy but I sleep good."

Bailey says he has lived on Albany's streets for 15 years.  "I got to make it the best way I can. If I have to panhandle, beg for money. I'm going to do it. If I get locked up, I get locked up."

But locking people up for panhandling is not what city officials want, even if they could. Mayor Willie Adams talked to city commissioners about the increase of panhandlers like Colin, and how they can affect the city.

Adams said "We certainly need to discourage that as far as what the city looks like when we are trying to recruit jobs and companies to come to this town."

Bailey says the number of homeless in Albany would startle its citizens. "That's all over Albany. Every corner in town, honey. "

Mayor Adams says the answer is not arresting folks like Bailey, but instead organizing civic groups to provide them help and work.

 Adams said "Rather than just walking away from it and throwing a few dollars at it. We need to really concentrate our efforts and be more diligent about trying to solve the problem."

Bailey said he has lots of friends, but hopes to move out from under the bridge soon.

Do people help you out? Bailey said " Yeah, they give me food. Give me money. Yes." What's tomorrow going to bring? "I don't know. I ain't got there yet."

But the Mayor hopes the community charities can help Bailey and other panhandlers in Albany.

Mayor Adams says Albany does not have anywhere near the panhandler or homeless problem that many larger cities have, but he says city leaders must make sure they don't let the issue get out of hand.

He urges people to call the city's 311 help line to report panhandlers or the homeless living in public areas, and he will see if the city can get them help.

Right now Albany has no ordinances against panhandling or living on the streets.

Those kinds of laws often face legal challenges and could require the city to set up a facility to house the homeless they took off the streets, giving them medical care and housing until they can find their own.

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