Jan. 25, 2021, was supposed to be the start of the HUD National Homeless Point in Time (PIT) Count across the state of Georgia looking for sheltered and unsheltered homeless living in our counties, including both veterans and non-veterans. The State of Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which runs the homeless count, canceled this year’s event due to COVID concerns. Currently, Cherokee County ranks No. 2 behind Bibb County for overall numbers of homeless persons in what is called the Balance of State “BOS,” which represents the 152 rural counties of Georgia
“Local veterans organizations and local nonprofits, once notified of the PIT cancellation, teamed up instead to conduct a countywide outreach to find and help the homeless within Pickens and Cherokee Counties. Starting on a cold, foggy Monday and ending on a cold and sunny Friday, various veteran teams across the county walked fields, under bridges, behind shops, restaurants, parking lots and even in abandoned houses in search of the homeless residing in our community," noted Jim Lindenmayer, director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans program and American Legion Post 45 service officer who led the outreach.
The outreach proved to be very successful as over 30 homeless were identified and helped during the four days of outreach. "We encountered them in every town and city in Pickens and Cherokee Counties. We found homeless in both rural as well as urban settings, living in cars, on the street, and with some trying to stay out of the cold and rain taking shelter in abandoned houses, tents and makeshift shelters,” said Lindenmayer. The numbers included elderly, families, single females, single males, as well as veterans.
All homeless identified as veterans have or are currently undergoing a 96-hour intake process that is designed to get them into temporary housing, obtain food, clothing, jobs and schedule a VA claims review with the local Canton office of the Georgia Department of Veteran Services. One of the veterans encountered was a 67-year-old male who had recently been evicted. We were able to reach out to Tim Morris, director of the Cherokee County Sr. Services to obtain temporary shelter for this veteran through their program, and we will begin his intake on Monday. The others are working with the veteran volunteers of the Cherokee County Homeless Veterans program which was started seven years ago by Lindenmayer to help combat veteran homelessness.
The veteran organizations participating in the veteran outreach included American Legion Post 45 in Canton, VFW Post 5262 in Canton, American Legion Post 316 in Woodstock, American Legion Post 29 in Marietta, Marine Corps League Detachment 1311 of Woodstock, Vet Buds, as well as female members of Auxiliary Unit 45 in Canton.