The initial template for an online directory of local homeless resources is now live thanks to the participation of providers and advocates.
Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, has spearheaded the effort to update and consolidate the directory information in one easily accessible place.
The full directory will be completed by May.
In Georgia, the number of chronically homeless individuals has risen to 16 percent of the state total from 13 percent in 2013, according to figures from the state Department of Community Affairs’ 152-county estimate conducted last year.
That count excluded some large counties, such as Cobb and Fulton, which perform their own surveys.
Veterans account for a solid 10 percent of all homeless individuals in Georgia, which is up from 7 percent in 2013.
Hall is just one of 10 counties in the state to experience a more than 50 percent increase in the number of unsheltered homeless people between 2013 and 2015.
Assistance providers estimate that there are more than 200 homeless individuals in the county at any given time, and as many as 400.
Some are in shelters. Some live under bridges. Others camp behind retail stores and other places of business. Some even have turned storage units into makeshift apartments.
The chronically homeless are costly to support, and nonprofits play the most significant role in supporting them locally. For example, there are no publicly funded shelters in Hall.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that chronically homeless individuals cost the public between $30,000 and $50,000 per person annually as a result of emergency room visits, incarceration and other services.
The first step in a new local effort to reduce homelessness begins with Moss’ plan to develop a comprehensive resource directory, which will be regularly updated online.
“The challenge we’ve had in the past with ‘paper’ directories is that they quickly become outdated,” Moss told The Times earlier this year. “It is also my desire to call a meeting of homeless service providers so that they can meet and discuss ways that they can increase coordination.”
The site is still under construction, but some information is already present, including a catalogue of missions and shelters that provide beds for the homeless.
Moss said this information will eventually be updated weekly to reflect the number of beds open and available at a given time.
Additional resource information will include a list of day centers, food pantries, rental and financial assistance programs, clothing, legal advice, medical and mental health resources and ways to contribute to reducing local homelessness.
And the domestic violence shelter information is separated from other shelter information because of the unique population served by this group.