A recent local study revealed that just how diverse Gordon County’s homeless population is.
According to the survey, conducted by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and local non-profits last year, an estimated 66 people were homeless in Gordon County in September, and 22 more people were categorized as living in unstable housing (for example: having no water or electricity or sharing a home with others due to economic hardship, according to Roberta Charbonneau of Gordon County Family Connections).
The study, a “point in time” survey, was conducted for a week locally in September 2010. Organizations across the county counted the amount of homeless people who entered local facilities, as well as “hot spots” where homeless are known to gather.
However, what may be even more concerning than a flat number of homeless individuals, is the number of homeless children reported by school social workers.
These school system employees calculate homeless children totals throughout the year.
Calhoun City Schools estimated 208 homeless students from its five schools last year, and Gordon County’s 10 schools identified 433 homeless students as of Nov. 1, according to documents provided by both schools.
The majority of homeless, both county and statewide, are made up of young single mothers with children, according to the NCH. Often, these families are living with other families in poor conditions and work multiple jobs.
Rural homelessness presents unique challenges; finding shelter in a small town or less populated area can be particularly difficult.
In any situation, homelessness can register in several scenarios, such as: someone living on a street corner or someone living in unstable or non-permanent housing, according to National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), www.nationalhomeless.org.
Currently, there is only one homeless shelter in Gordon County, and it houses only men. The shortage of local shelter space could be solved with one simple solution: another shelter.
However, it’s not that easy. In November’s county interagency meeting, where non-profits gather every month, agencies discussed the need for another shelter, but their biggest obstacle seemed to be finding the money to fund one.
The closest shelters for women right now are in Bartow and Whitefield counties, according to Charbonneau.
Although temporary housing for homeless individuals is limited now, Charbonneau said agencies in the county do offer assistance to those in need.
She said no agency in the county simply hands out money to residents, but they do help in other ways.
“Sometimes they just need gas, other times its clothing or food, and we will issue a voucher to the VAC (Voluntary Action Center),” she said. “If they come into an agency, we will work hard to help them any way we can,” she said.
Those interested in contributing to the cause or learning more about homelessness can contact the VAC at 706-629-7283, the United Way at 706-602-5548 or Family Connection at 706 602-5139.