Attacking the Homeless Veteran Issue

Posted by on Aug 16, 2016 in Perry's Blog | 0 comments

By Perry Smith

Over the course of the next few months a series of articles will highlight how the Augusta Warrior Project is helping veterans throughout the Aiken/Augusta area. At the outset, it is important to emphasize that the Augusta Warrior Project is not a government agency but is a local non-profit organization. It is located right here and is staffed by dedicated, patriotic and hard working people who live in the local area. It receives financial support from foundations, corporations, churches, non-profit organizations and hundreds of generous and supportive individuals.

I have written in the past about how important the non-profit organizations are to our community. They often can do a job quicker, better and cheaper than governmental organizations. They are much less bureaucratic, and are generally less tied down by cumbersome regulations.

In order to gain an understanding of the big picture of homelessness, I met recently with two officials who work for the Housing and Community Development Department of Richmond County, Daniel Evans and Edkesha Anderson. Their offices are located at 925 Laney Walker Boulevard. Both of these city officials are deeply involved in dealing with the homeless throughout Richmond County. I wanted to get the big picture of homelessness in Richmond County and, in turn, to learn about the issues of homeless veterans throughout our area.

So what is the scope of the homeless issue in Richmond County and how many of the homeless are veterans? As you might expect, the numbers are constantly in flux. However, on any one day, there are between 400 and 500 homeless in Richmond County. As compared to other cities of our size (approximately 200,000) in the Southeast, this number quite comparable.

Of this group, there are, at any one time, about twenty homeless veterans. Compared to other cities, this number is much lower than might be expected. The aggressive work of team members at the Augusta Warrior Project is largely responsible for keeping these numbers so low.

Locating the homeless veterans, finding them permanent housing and taking care of their many needs, is a real challenge. On the staff of the Augusta Warrior Project are two full-time professionals with the right combination of compassion and other qualifications to handle the myriad issues that define homelessness: Kelly Thorpe and Jeanette Gilles. The work must be done one veteran at a time and the work never stops.

One surprising and uplifting aspect of this work is the ability of Kelly and Jeanette to identify and assist those who are on the verge becoming homeless. If veterans who are about to be evicted from their homes can be helped before they are tossed onto the street, that is, of course, the best outcome.

Another rather surprising aspect of the Augusta Warrior Project’s homelessness program is that the AWP teammates are able to help many homeless who are not veterans. City official Daniel Evans is high in his praise for the team members of the Augusta Warrior Project. They help make his job much easier. In my meeting with Mr. Evans he stated the following, “AWP is a rare bird because it almost never comes looking for something but almost always comes offering something. “ He loves to quote Kim Elle, the CEO and President of the Augusta Warrior Project, who often states, “How do we get to yes.”

Why can’t the number of homeless veterans be reduced to zero? There are many reasons. 1. A few prefer to remain homeless. They may not be willing to take on all of the responsibilities of living in a home: paying the rent, paying for electricity, water, sewage, or maintaining the property—inside and out. 2. Some are not confortable being confined inside walls and under a roof. 3. Some may be trying to avoid being tracked down by a disgruntled family member. 4. Some are not aware of the Augusta Warrior Project and how it can help overcome all of the bureaucratic impediments to gaining permanent housing. 5. Some have just been evicted from their homes and have not yet asked for help.

How can you assist this noble enterprise? Here are a few ways. 1. When you encounter a homeless veteran, put him/her in contact with the AWP. 2. When you learn of a veteran who is about to be evicted, call the Augusta Warrior Project right away. Call at 706 9517506. 3. If you would like to organize a fund raiser, call Kim Elle at 706 4341739. 4. Make a regular financial contribution to the Augusta Warrior Project. Send your check, made out to the Augusta Warrior Project, to 701 Greene Street, Suite 104, Augusta, Georgia 30901.

In my next article will highlight the remarkable story of Pete Way and the many ways the AWP assisted him.

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