The Salvation Army has launched a new approach to Augusta’s begging problem: a map.
“We called it Change Augusta, and it focuses on making real change, not spared change,” said Derek Dugan, director of development for the Salvation Army Augusta.
A document handed out to members of the Augusta Commission on Tuesday showed credit card-sized cards with the phone number and address of the Salvation Army Center of Hope, the homeless shelter and soup kitchen of the Telfair Street. It is marked by the opening of the shelter for women, children and men and offers assistance with clothing, rental and utilities. He mentions that the assistance is free on several occasions.
Dugan said the Salvation Army is working with Augusta Transit to double the one-way bus tickets to the shelter and will unveil a marketing campaign soon.
Additionally, businesses troubled by beggars may display marketing flyers in their windows that recommend customers to “change the way you give” and “give real money, not spare change.” They may also display signs indicating that they support the Salvation Army Hope Center with the address and phone number of the shelter.
The presentation comes months after Commissioners Sean Frantom and Catherine Smith McKnight relayed numerous complaints from business owners, especially along Washington Road, about homeless people using their facilities asking customers for money. and breaking the laws. It also comes as Augusta’s Homelessness Task Force prepares its final recommendations for a holistic approach to the problem of homelessness. The city’s current homeless count is a few hundred, but the last count was made before the pandemic.
In July, a commission effort to extend Augusta’s begging order met a reminder from the American Civil Liberties Union that such orders were viewed as restricting free speech. The rewritten ordinance was filed without follow-up.
McKnight said she was skeptical of the approach, but business owners should try it.
“I think it’s a nice gesture. It’s something we can try. But is it going to work on everyone? No,” she said. “A lot of beggars aren’t looking for a map. They are looking for food and money.”
Commissioner Jordan Johnson, who co-chairs the Homelessness Task Force, said the program is a way to help homeless people get off the streets and connect them to services.
“Getting people off the streets and getting them into the wards is the first step,” he said.
Johnson said that while the task force prepares its recommendations, he is well aware that the city cannot do all the work. Currently, Augusta Housing and Community Development and other members of the task force are developing a comprehensive strategy that would include a shelter with single rooms for families, daytime hours, and additional services to end the cycle of homelessness.
“We’re not going to be able to do it on our own,” Johnson said. “A key element is being able to rely on these non-profit organizations.”