Helping the homeless in Douglas

Liz Marino/Douglas County Sentinel

Douglas County's Rideshare and Multi-Modal Transportion Center staff is holding a donation drive now through March 17 to help members of the homeless community living in Douglas County. Individuals can drop off donations at the transportation center, located at 8800 Dorris Road during hours of operation Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pictured are Administrative Assistant Jerie Blackwood, who is coordinating the donation drive, and Multi-Modal Transportation Director Gary Watson.

While homelessness remains a problem in Douglas County, there are a number of groups and individuals who are working to help them with basic needs, while also working on finding them permanent places to call home.

The Douglas County Rideshare and Multi-Modal Transportation Center is hosting a donation drive to help members of the homeless community now through March 17.

According to Jerie Blackwood, administrative assistant with the transportation center, who came up with the idea for the donation drive, this marks the first time they’ve sponsored something like this.

“We started this idea with the Rideshare passengers and Douglas County employees,” Blackwood said, “but are encouraging members of the community to participate in the drive.”

Along with the standard personal items an individual might normally need, such as deodorant, bar soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, combs, hairbrushes and toilet paper, there are a number of specific items needed for sleeping in an encampment outdoors.

Blackwood said the homeless population needs such items as tents, tarps, umbrellas, ponchos, bottled water and AAA and AA batteries. Insect repellant and sunscreen is also needed for those who make their home in the woods, as are first aid supplies.

“The change in the weather brings out a change in clothing,” said Rideshare/Multi-Modal Director Gary Watson, “so there is a need for gently used or new jackets or sweaters, too.”

Blackwood said that socks are another hot ticket item in high demand by homeless citizens.

Donations may be dropped off at Multi-Modal Transportation Center on Dorris Road below the Woodie Fite Senior Center Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Charles Branson with the Douglas County Homeless Coalition has worked to help homeless individuals in the community since the 1990s. Both the United Way of Metro Atlanta and the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) have aided the county’s efforts in the fight to eliminate homelessness.

“We have made a major effort in pulling churches together.”

Branson said there are more than 40 chronically homeless living in tents or other undesirable situations right now in Douglas County. In addition, there are at least 110 more who are on the brink of homelessness in temporary housing or extended stay residences.

Branson said that in the spring of 2017, groups of homeless living in the woods behind Kroger and the courthouse were going to be driven out. Some moved behind the Pizza Hut on Fairburn Road.

“We were able to get them on county property, with some strict rules — no fires and no chopping down trees,” said Branson. “It is the cleanest camp I’ve ever seen.”

He said the camp at one time had approximately 13 living on the county property behind the courthouse, across from the Multi-Modal Transportation Center. Branson said that number has reduced to now approximately six or seven.

There is another large camp currently on the western side of the city, not located on county property, Branson said.

He said the goal of the ARC is for homelessness to be “rare, brief and non-recurring.”

Branson said that in 2017, four homeless individuals in Douglas County died.

He wants to dispel a myth that most of the county’s homeless population have moved here from Atlanta.

“In all the years I’ve been helping the homeless,” said Branson, “I can count on one hand the number of homeless individuals coming here from Atlanta.”

There are a number of different agencies that are working to help the homeless, including the Daily Bread Ministry of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, led by Leila Myers, which goes out on Tuesdays to feed the homeless in Douglasville and show them the love of Jesus Christ.

Each Tuesday morning, volunteers visit the Lutheran Church to deliver the blessings and pray up their work before they go out into the woods and other places where the county’s homeless live.

“We have some good things going on to help the homeless become self-sufficient,” he said.

To find out how you can help the homeless population in Douglas County, contact Branson at 770-595-6535.

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