Most people are fortunate enough to never have to experience homelessness. Most of us are able to live our lives without ever even dreaming of living without a place to call home. Many of us take for granted our nice warm bed at night. That is not the case for some Georgia residents. Approximately 13,000 Georgians, male and female, young and old, are experiencing homelessness right now. Many of these people spend their days wondering where they will lay their head at night.
According to the 2015 annual Point in Time Report, 13,790 individuals in Georgia were considered homeless. This includes those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or a hotel paid for by a charitable organization. Also included are those living in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, or similar situations. Of Georgia’s nearly 14,000 homeless people, 226 of them live in Athens, Georgia.
The Athens Area Homeless Shelter is home to many of Athens’ homeless. Operations Coordinator, Olivia Amato, credits the Athens community for their support helping to keep the shelter up and running, providing a place to sleep and get in out of the cold. In a city like Athens, community involvement and support go a long way towards solving the homeless problem. Through community donations and fundraising, shelters are able to add to their funds already received from the government. Receiving 50 percent government funding, the Athens Area Homeless Shelter relies heavily on the people of Athens-Clarke County to be involved with the shelter. Citizens can be involved in helping the shelter by helping with shelter upkeep, fundraising, donating shelter needs and volunteering their time. By doing any or all of these they are ultimately helping the entire Athens community.
Amato said, “We want volunteers and anyone that becomes aware of what we do and who we work with to recognize that we want to celebrate our families as members of the community. There is no us and them. We are all in this together.”
Donations are a necessity for the shelter. People can donate their time by volunteering to do various services or chores, such as helping maintain a clean shelter environment, providing childcare, or preparing meals for the families. Another way to have an impact is through monetary donations or purchasing items off the shelter’s Amazon wish list.
Along with donations, fundraising is a key factor for the shelter. Each year the shelter puts on two large fundraising events, where community members can play active roles. On November 10th, the 14th annual Harvest for the Homeless, AAHS’s largest event, will take place. Percentage nights at local restaurants and raffle drawings lead up to the main cocktail event.
The smallest donation of time or money makes a large difference in the lives of the Athens homeless community. Donating your time or money will help improve the lives of our entire community.