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Faces of the homeless

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   Columbus is attempting to do away with homelessness within the next decade.  Volunteers with the Home for Good Alliance recently canvassed some homeless areas in Columbus to get information about them.  I accompanied them with a video camera.

   It was before daylight.  The temperature was 32 degrees.  One of the stops was a wooded area behind a church off Fifth Avenue.  What I saw reminded me of what's left behind when a tornado hits a trailer park...strewn debris, scattered garbage, heaps of rubble, an occasional battered pup tent. The homeless folks were already gone, getting showers at the showering program or scrounging for an early breakfast.
 
   The group also scoured the area around the old Claflin School and the abandoned Swift Mill.  There they found a homeless man named Shannon.  He was quite friendly and agreed to answer questions about himself like how long he had been homeless, where he slept, how he gets his food, and where he goes for healthcare.  For participating, Shannon got a five-dollar gift card to a fast food restaurant so he could get breakfast.

   Bridges provide shelter for dozens of homeless folks in Columbus.  They tuck themselves into the space directly underneath the bridge.  They use blankets to make a barrier against the wind and cold.  This is where they sleep, even when ice and snow is on the ground. 

   Kim calls the bridge home for now.  She moved to Columbus from Connecticut over a decade ago.  I asked her to describe a typical day.  She said, "It's pretty boring.  I don't have a job so I'm trying to get my ID so I can get a job."  

   Kim is sensitive to her plight in life.  She told me, "Don't look at us like we're in a different class.  I went into a store last week and they said, 'They're trying to stop you people from coming in here.' I said, 'You people?'"  After a long pause Kim said, "Just give us a chance."

   Another bridge dweller is Kristen.  She moved here from Missouri ten years ago.  When I asked her what could be done to help her out, she said, "Houses around here...they might be able to fix them up and house some of us until, you know, help us get jobs, try to help us get a better life."

   I asked Kristen to describe what it's like living under the bridge.  "To me, I really don't like it because everybody's basically in your business.  It's cold sometimes but we can pretty well handle that.  Other than that, it's alright because you get to meet new people."

   That afternoon the forecast called for sleet and snow with temperatures falling into the 20's.  I asked Kristen what her plans were for the night.  She said with a smile, "Get underneath my covers and lay down and go to sleep."

   If you would like to volunteer to help the homeless in our area, call (706) 327-3255 to learn about community agencies that serve the homeless.

Phil Scoggins

After taking 16-year break from broadcasting, Phil rejoined WRBL as a news anchor where he has been ever since. More>>

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