Ga. bill looks to ban people from sleeping on streets, SWGA leaders look to help homeless populations

Ga. bill looks to ban people from sleeping on streets; South Ga. leaders look to help homeless populations
Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 3:00 PM EDT
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TIFTON, Ga. (WALB) - State and local leaders are trying to address a dramatic increase in homelessness in South Georgia. Senate Bill 62, which was proposed by a South Georgia lawmaker, changes the way cities can approach the problem.

A homelessness uptick is not just a local issue but a national issue. WALB spoke with Senator Carden Summers on Monday and he said that the homeless rate in Georgia has increased by over 50% over the past few years.

According to Summers, Senate Bill 62 requires city and county leaders to enforce a statewide street-sleeping ban. The attorney general of Georgia can bring a civil action against any city or county that violates the policy. Summers says this bill was written specifically to address and support those experiencing homelessness.

“The cities need to find a safe place for them to sleep, like in a parking lot, or a vacant area somewhere where they know they’re safe and have some dignity. With hopefully a porta-potty or porta-shower,” Summers said.

The bill also requires an audit for cities and counties to find how much money they are allocating to address homelessness. Tift County’s commissioner chairman started a non-profit to help keep the low-income and homeless community fed. On Saturday and Sunday, his group packaged over 1,700 food and personal item bags.

Yurshema Flanders, Lowndes County homeless shelter director, says the trend in homeless can be attributed to the lack of affordable housing. She says they target the unsheltered homeless population that is sleeping in cars, in woods and any other place not meant for human habitation.

“It is a big issue. Rather we are visibly seeing it or not a lot of agencies that are dealing with when it comes to children all the way up to adults are seeing homelessness in different capacities.” Flanders said.