Homeless not always apparent - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Homeless not always apparent

January 11, 2007

Albany - - A national advocacy group says Georgia has the fifth highest number of homeless people in the country. According to the study, between 444,000 to 744,000 Americans have no place to call home. 27,000 live in Georgia. 

The face of the homeless is changing. You may not always recognize it.

"You can see it in overcrowding where people live with other families, because they have no where to live, or they're staying in their car because they're trying to hold on to a car. Most households who are homeless are employed," says Jennifer Clark of Albany's Community & Economic Development department.

Several area organizations try to combat the problem by offering services. The Salvation Army is one of them, offering shelter for people in between a home.

"We also help when they have no place to live. They can't find a place, and they can stay for 14 days and there's no charge," says Judy Russell.

They can sleep and eat.

"Our meal service is at 6 o'clock in the evening till 6:30 and that is open to not just people staying in our lodge but to the community."

50 to 75 people come every night. But with the growing number of homeless people, it can get hard for groups like these who open its doors for free.

"It just costs a lot as far as our expense to try to keep these doors open."

The City of Albany is trying to do it's part. Leaders plan to renovate two vacant homes to offer shelter and services.

"Social work services, job training, a place that they can use as an address or as a phone number for job placement," Clark says.

The city also formed a Coalition to End Homelessness for area agencies to collaborate on the issue because groups like the Salvation Army can't do it alone.

"I wish we could help more," Russell says. 

But "more" seems to be growing by the minute.

The city of Albany also has nine emergency shelters for homeless families to stay in up to 90 days. There's also a transitional facility for people looking to get back on their feet. People can stay there up to 18 months as long as they work with a social worker to become independent again.

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