SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — For nearly 4,000 individuals in the Hostess City, homelessness continues to be a problem that just can’t be shaken.
“I think a lot of people’s minds go to the Truman parkway because that is definitely our most visible homeless camp in the community, but there’s also an invisible homeless population that doesn’t get a lot of coverage, and that’s families living in hotels and motels,” said Latacia Avila, Executive Director of Social Apostolate.
They’re known as the invisible homeless.
It’s the population of people who bounce around from extended stays at motels, to homeless camps, shelters and everywhere in-between. Oftentimes, bringing their children along with them, which can make life difficult on both the kids and the school system.
“Our goal at the school district, just to rewind for a second, is to make sure that children remain in one school for the entire school year,” said Sharon Hill, Homeless Liaison at SCCPSS. “Because, if you can imagine being a mom who’s going from house to motel to car to emergency shelter, that’s a lot on a family. But imagine being a 6-year-old who’s trying to do homework or a 16-year-old who’s studying for the PSAT’s.”
According to the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless, over 800 K-12 students currently enrolled in the Savannah Chatham County Public School System experience homelessness at some point in the school year.
For many families, it’s the lack of affordable housing available in the city that has led them down this route.
“My son doesn’t even know that he’s in a shelter. Everybody says he’s the happiest baby of all time and he really is. Bu you know, I still struggle because I worry at night, what’s my next step? What door is God going to open for me,” said Hollie Dixon, a local mother experiencing homelessness.
It’s recommended that families spend no more than 30% of their income on housing, but due to the rising costs of rent in the area, that puts more than 40% of households at risk for becoming homeless.
“All of us, we’re one tragedy away, one hurricane away, one tornado away, one job loss away, one death away, one paycheck being taken away, that we find ourselves in that same situation,” explained Mayor Van Johnson.