Cold weather awakens topic of homelessness - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cold weather awakens topic of homelessness

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Shelters expect big crowds of folks looking to get out of the freezing weather. Thousands of people in Dougherty County are considered Homeless. All week, the homeless coalition has been counting the number of people who fall into that category.

For the first time the coalition got permission to distribute surveys throughout the school system, hoping to get a much more accurate count.  They say it's important for students to fill out these forms and get them back to teachers on Monday. When school lets out in Dougherty County, hundreds of students don't have a permanent home to go for the night.

"There is no reason to me, why we should have 800 students in the school system and in this community today that are homeless, but sadly that's where we are today," said chair of Albany-Dougherty Homeless Coalition David Blackwell.

In 2011 there were 699 kids identified as homeless and that number has increased since then. A Homeless person is not limited to someone who lives out on the streets. It can mean someone who lives in a hotel, with a friend, stays with a relative or lives in vehicles.

Today, kids in pre-kindergarten all the way up to senior high were sent home with yellow surveys and it's critical that they are returned Monday. "We are doing everything possible to make sure this data is collected as rapidly as possible and returned back to the schools," said Blackwell.

Thankfully there are a number of organizations that help homeless kids and their parents get on their feet. But those programs are funded based on the number of homeless people accounted for. "It's a battle to prove to Atlanta that these kinds of numbers are actually in Albany Georgia and not just in the metropolitan area," said Blackwell.  

They are even offering incentives to increase participation."The schools that have the largest number of slips turned in will receive gift cards as incentives," said Southside parent facilitator Patricia Maples. Filling out and the yellow sheet of paper is critical, because it could make a major difference for families. The Salvation Army officials say when temperatures get low they don't recommend that anyone spends the night outside.

They have around 40 beds at their shelter and on colder nights they're prepared to handle an overflow. "We also have mats that we will bring out and there are multiple rooms that we can use as well outside of the normal dormitories," said Major Kelly English. The Salvation Army is located on West 2nd Avenue. They start letting people into the shelter at 7 o'clock in the evening.

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