Homeless share experiences
Tariq Raheem, originally from Florida, said he has lived on the streets for a couple of years, “in and out of work.” As a man who came from a large city environment, he was disappointed when he came to Valdosta and discovered there was no homeless shelter for men, since most homeless are single males.
“There’s no programs in this area,” Raheem said. “I don’t think there’s much work here, either. And I think most homeless would rather have a job than a place to stay because then you can eat.”
In spite of his disappointment, he was glad for the tent, the food, and the safe place to stay, and he hopes he can find work.
Another individual wishing to be named J.C., has a college education and said he still struggled to find work after his family gave him $1,000 and told him to leave. He is 27 years old.
“I made the wrong choices in life,” J.C. said. “I was adopted. I’m in the system. I had everything, and I took it all for granted.”
Councilwoman spearheads effort
The relocation effort began with concerns raised by City Councilmember Deidra White, who felt it her obligation to address the situation before it got too far out of hand.
“Residents all along MLK had been observing that this camp was growing steadily over the past several months,” White said. “My first commitment is the residents of District 2, and they were concerned about their property value and their safety. It wasn’t that I assumed anything was going on, just that there are no restrooms and no facilities available.”
There was no need to “further displace these people who are already displaced,” White said, but most Valdosta residents would never know about this problem if she had not spearheaded the effort.
“We want to do what we can,” White said. “So I spoke with various people to see what our options were — governmental, civil, non-profit — and I expected the effort to take a couple of months, but it only took about three weeks. I’m happy it could come together so quickly.”
White explained that it is a problem any time there is homelessness in the city, and that solicitation is a recurrent issue not isolated to these recent events.
“We have a lot of transient activity in the downtown area,” White said. “That was not the impetus for this effort.”
Homeless individuals and volunteers can contact Dr. Ronnie Mathis at the South Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness, (229) 293-7301.