SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Hundreds of community members rallied as one voice on Monday night, with a goal to hold those in power accountable.
Just Unites Savannah Together (JUST), which represents 20 Chatham County congregations, came together to ask elected officials for action and answers on issues like affordable housing and the criminal justice system.
The group wants to see more city funds be used for affordable housing. Family Promise of Greater Savannah said residents are facing a surge in rent prices and a decline in available and affordable properties.
“Now for the first time in two years I have stable, safe housing,” said Clint Tawes with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah. “But I still have to work two jobs to make ends meet each month, driving Uber on top of my teacher’s salary. And rents are only going up.”
Clint’s story is one of many in the Hostess City. According to the Savannah Housing Task Force, more than 21,000 families in Savannah can’t afford quality housing.
“Living in three places in a relatively short amount of time, it’s hard for my daughter to feel like she has one stable place to come home to,” Clint said.
In response to JUST’s demand, City Manager Jay Melder vowed to request a $2 million investment to Savannah’s affordable housing fund in next year’s budget. He also said it will target housing for people who make less than 80% of the area’s median income.
Another issue on the table Monday night was addressing the backlog of court cases and people in jail who are awaiting trial.
“They can lose their jobs, their housing, their vehicles, their families,” said Todd Martin, a public defender. “If they can resolve their case sooner than later, they can avoid these devastating losses that often lead to re-offending.”
District Attorney Shalena Cook Jones said her office already submitted a plan to Chatham County Commissioners asking for more money for the Early Intervention Program, which has cleared 1,500 cases since February 2021, according to Jones.
“We promised that we would run on transparency and accountability and that every day we would work toward the building of a criminal justice system that was more efficient, more equitable and more effective,” Jones said.
Melder and Jones both also agreed to meet with the coalition within the next 30 days to discuss their progress on achieving what they promised on Monday.