© 2024 WUGA | University of Georgia
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners skeptical of homelessness plan

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners discussed a new strategic plan to prevent and reduce homelessness at a work session Tuesday night.

The report, which proposes spending millions of dollars in unallocated federal COVID relief funding, was greeted with some by some commissioners, like District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton.

“You're presenting this like this is a new thing,” Thornton said. “We have had two groups that did just that - built relationships with landlords, built relationships with employers, got people homes, got people off the street. But this presentation looks like this is something brand new.”

District 7 Commissioner John Culpepper questioned why more couldn’t be done to keep people from outside Clarke County from coming to the county to seek services.

“We talked about the increases in homelessness in Athens outpacing the rest of the state. But correct me if I'm wrong, none of this is showing anything to prevent people from coming in,” Culpepper said.

Mayor Kelly Girtz responded that most counties near Athens simply haven’t created a network of services for people experiencing homelessness.

“The only adjacent county that provides any supportive housing at all is Barrow, with just a couple of dozen beds,” Girtz said. “In fact, Gwinnett County, you know, nearing a million population has only introduced shelter beds within the last two years. So we are in a somewhat challenged region.”

District 6 Commissioner Jesse Houle urged their colleagues to focus less on people from other counties, arguing that those people were a small part of the overall unhoused population.

“The fact is, we have a large and growing population of unhoused people in this community, and the vast majority of those people, around 90% of them, are by whatever definition you want to use, from here,” they said.

Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to accept the plan early next month, although an acceptance of the plan doesn’t spend any money or enact any policy changes.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.
Related Content