I’m here to talk about an issue. A revolving issue. An issue that doesn’t get talked about enough, especially for the residents of Atlanta. Homelessness.
Let’s not pretend it doesn’t sit on our minds heavily when we hear the word. According to Midtown.com, as of 2020, there are 3,200 homeless people living on the streets in the city of Atlanta. Although, the count has gone down by 25% since 2015, it doesn’t change the fact that there are ways to stop or prevent this problem from growing.
I recently spoke with Terence Lester, the CEO of Love Beyond Walls. He started his organization in 2013 after experiencing homelessness himself. It focuses on “raising awareness of the realities and needs of those experiencing lack and vulnerability.”
These are people. Some with kids. Under bridges, outside of the courthouse, outside of fast food restaurants just trying to survive. Some of these people have been homeless their whole entire life with no support from the city of Atlanta.
I also spoke with Cathryn Marchman (Chief Executive Officer) and Tamara Roulhac (Senior Project Manager) of Partners for HOME, a nonprofit organization here in Atlanta that provides support and shelter for the youth facing homelessnes and supporting the “Robust House Initiative.” The initiative aims to house 800 people through the ages of 18-24 for a one year lease at an apartment and also help them get back on their feet so that way they can never face homelessness again. Even when the City of Atlanta has ordered officials to close the encampments under bridges, they supply the people under those bridges with a hotel to stay in called the Ramada Inn on Capitol Avenue.
Throughout the year, I think about all the people on the streets of Atlanta. It gets to below freezing temperatures in the winter nights, the summers are excruciatingly hot and they have nowhere to go. It also rains occasionally during the winter and during the fall with warm climates, and they can’t protect themselves. Not even under bridges because the city has put boulders in place so they can’t set up tints of blankets and have also set up bars under bridges so they can’t get through to even sleep.
I also recently learned from Terence Lester that it has become illegal in the states of California, South Carolina, Florida and many more, to sleep on the streets or even sleep in your car. In Terence Lester’s words,”They want to raise money to put boulders and gates up under bridges, but then not use it for homeless people.”
I personally think that is evil knowing that these people have nowhere to go and can’t shelter themselves from the elements. They lay on the streets with blankets and sometimes tarps on hard and uncomfortable cement. Everytime I see people in that situation, I try my best to help out. Whether it be giving them a few dollars to giving them a meal from the nearest food spot. People who are homeless are treated like animals and often treated like they don’t matter. I’ve seen a lot of ignorant and heartless people do cruel things to homeless people and honestly, it makes me cry. They never asked to be in that situation. Some of those people could be the kindest people on earth and they still get judged by simply existing and often, by the way they look.
I wish this problem was taken more seriously than it is, but sadly, not enough people care.
So What do we do now? We raise awareness for it. We support organizations like Partners For HOME and Love Beyond Walls. Make this kind of conversation normal. Make people aware that this is a real problem in our own backyard from Peachtree to Whitehall and in between. Nobody cares about the situation until they themselves are in it or somebody close to them that they know is in this situation. I can’t not look at these people and wonder what went so wrong and why is nobody helping?
Which is why I have started my own non-profit organization called women4change. Supplying homeless women to feminine care products such as pads, tampons and ibuprofen and whatever else women need to make their situation a bit easier. The difference starts with us as young people. We can change this and make this a normal conversation.
We are blessed to have a roof over our heads and food on our table and we sometimes don’t even take the time to be thankful and realize that other people don’t get to have what we have, not even with adults, but people our age too, and we don’t even think twice about it. So, the next time you see a person who is homeless on the street just try to do something kind to them no matter how big or small it might be and be thankful.