State wants a homeless census - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State wants a homeless census

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

December 16, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - In an effort to find out how many Georgians need housing, the Department of Community Affairs is embarking on a second homeless count.

In January, they will use surveys to find out where people are sleeping. They want to learn what problems are leading to homelessness, and how the state can help.

Kenny Bynum knows exactly where he would be sleeping tonight, if the Albany Rescue Mission hadn't taken him in.

"If it wasn't for this Mission, I'd be out on the streets," he said.

The 29-year old has been there before. "It was hard. It was really hard."

He slept on someone's porch when he had no where else to go. Now, he stays in the Mission, and even works in the kitchen preparing meals for the homeless and others who are in need.

"I don't need to be out there doing wrong. Being here, I feel like I'm doing the right thing by being here, that I feel like I'm in a position to where I can do something that's positive and encouraging. Not only for me, but for the community."

Dougherty County is one of the communities that will be partnering with the Department of Community Affairs to find out where the homeless, and those in danger of becoming homeless are staying.

Dee Nieman, who volunteers at the Mission, says her son was homeless for years. "He lived first in a car and then when he sold his car, he lived anywhere, in the woods or whatever."

Kenny says when you're homeless, you find the best place you can. "A lot of them sleep in abandoned houses, on the streets, period. In boxes, they might go out and buy sleeping bags if they have a little money. It's hard out there. It's real hard."

Now he's trying to turn his life around, with the help of the mission.

By getting an accurate count of those in need of stable housing, the Department of Community Affairs hopes to help even more like him.

Last year, in Dougherty County, about 192 people were counted as experiencing housing difficulties.

The Southwest Georgia Regional Development Center is putting together a directory of agencies that provide help to those with housing challenges. They also need volunteers to help with the surveys.

For more information, call 229-522-3552.

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