Federal government statistics from January indicate there are more than 10,000 homeless people in Georgia. In one grim sense, that’s the good news: The figure is down about 25 percent from the same count conducted in 2015.
But that’s still a lot of suffering, a lot of human want and misery.
According to a report last week in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a state Senate committee chaired by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, has been meeting since late summer on ways Georgia might legislatively address the needs of its homeless population legislatively to bring that number down more. A lot more.
The focus of the study, Unterman said, has been on the correlation between homelessness and mental health/substance abuse problems: “It is a very complicated issue,” Unterman said, “but just because it’s complicated, you shouldn’t push it aside, because eventually it’s going to bubble up.”
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A major challenge, both for the individuals most at risk of homelessness and for the society at large, is that it bubbles up even after treatment for mental illness or addiction, or release from prison: Too many of these people have literally nowhere to go while they try to find work to pay for a place to live. A lack of transitional housing in Georgia is one of the issues the committee is studying, and the committee reportedly will ask the legislature to seek more, as well as a possible expansion of the state’s Housing Voucher Program of rent assistance.
Here in Columbus, the Homeless Resource Network provides such services as a guide to emergency contacts, ID assistance, storage and referrals. (As with the state, the local homeless count appears to be down, from about 300 in last year’s Point in Time survey conducted by Home for Good, a United Way agency, to about 250 this January.) The Senate committee would do well do look at how organizations like the Homeless Resource Network and other such community-based services pool efforts to help people get access to sustenance and shelter, and ultimately a place to live.
Good news about water quality and quantity, especially with regard to the Chattahoochee, is always welcome. Some came down the river, quite literally, this week when the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s water monitoring program at West Point Lake showed lake waters meeting state quality standards.
As reported in the LaGrange Daily News, Georgia set limits for algae in the lake in 1995, revised in 2003, following dangerously high clorophyll-a readings in the 1980s that led to dangerous algae blooms. Non-point-source pollution can also result in oxygen depletion and fish kills.
The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper organization, founded in 1994, now devotes a full day each month to collecting water samples from around the 35-mile-long Chattahoochee impoundment about 40 miles north of Columbus. An average of those monthly samples is then compared to the state standard; the result has been “more than a decade-long trend of improvement in the health of West Point Lake,” the Daily News reported.