Homelessness is not a new problem in Coweta County.
In the past, we’ve have a shelter for men. Efforts have been made to help families, and there was a facility for homeless individuals and families for a time. All eventually closed.
At a community visioning session a few years ago, homelessness was identified as a major problem, but it was decided to address other issues.
NIMBY – “Not In My Back Yard.” For many years, people have been concerned about the homeless, but pretty much anywhere you found to get them out of the weather made someone unhappy.
There are serious issues with housing the homeless. In large cities, there usually are shelters that serve women and children and separate shelters for men. Shelter staff have to check to see if someone is on the sex offender list or if they have a criminal record.
Locally, there have been complaints of panhandling and shoplifting associated with concentrations of homeless people.
The time, however, has come for Coweta to address this issue. The county’s population is growing, and the increasing urban nature of our community means the homeless are with us and among us. They sleep under bridges, in camps in the woods. Other spend a night with a friend or relative here and there and otherwise make do in their cars.
One Roof Ecumenical Outreach has paid for people to stay temporarily in a motel, and Bridging the Gap has offered food, a shower and a place to wash clothes. For several years, the Coweta County School System has been reaching out to help homeless children stay in school, and our law enforcement officers deal with this issue daily.
“The homeless are a part of our community, and they live a life that most people can’t imagine,” Major Mark Fenninger of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office said recently. “Our homeless need a place to go, and right now we have nothing.”
The Newnan Times-Herald is going to be taking a close look at homelessness in 2018. City and county officials, business leaders, members of the faith community and other Cowetans need to put their heads – and hearts – together and come up with some solutions to this vexing problem.