SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Savannah City Council is taking steps to help the city’s homelessness crisis, which affects more than 4,000 people, according to the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless.
Mayor Van Johnson and city council members said they feel they’re moving in the right direction in addressing one of their top priorities.
Leaders said it’s not an overnight fix, but something that needs immediate attention.
“We have moms who do not know where their next two nights will come from,” said Post 1 At-Large Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter. “This is in real-time as we’re talking about this now. And we are going into our third term and we have simply talked about homelessness and homeless services.”
City leaders said policy-making and expanding housing access might be the best solutions.
The director of housing and neighborhood services said there are three developments in progress that will give 80 people a place to call home — the most recent, Savannah Gardens on the Eastside.
“There’s a whole range of needs and we’ve looked at the tiny homes/cottages, we’ve looked at potentially very small studio apartments,” said director Martin Fretty. “But we’re looking at the city-owned properties right now to see what else we might be able to bring.”
Moving forward, officials said they would also like to address the need for a daytime shelter and a way to give the homeless population access to transportation.
“The challenges often come when people have to meet eligibilities and criteria to get stabilized in those housing units,” said Jennifer Darsey, executive director of the Chatham-Savannah Authority for Homeless. “So, looking at low-barrier access to housing for homeless community members and looking at a housing-first model is really powerful.”
On Thursday, city council also approved the creation of an Interagency Council on Homelessness and Continuum of Care. The 2022 budget also allowed for money to create a senior policy advisor for homelessness, who will focus on making, sure enough, funding and resources and being poured into the cause.
“For the first time, we’re seeing the pieces come together and the entire picture to make sure we’re going to make a dramatic difference in the homeless crisis here locally, here in Savannah,” said District 4 Alderman Nick Palumbo.