A Tough Life For the Chattahoochee Valley's Homeless

Most of us will spend this holiday season enjoying family and food inside the comfortable walls of a home. But thousands of people in the Columbus area aren't so lucky.  Almost 17% of Columbus residents live in poverty, and many of these people are homeless.

They sleep in the shadows of some of the most important Columbus institutions. Matthew Johnson, who's been homeless for much of the past 12 months says it's a rough life. "In the summertime, you can bear, but in the winter time, its mighty rough," he says.

Those who have to stay on the streets find shelter any place they can. They sometimes stay in abandoned homes or underneath bridges. Its estimated that up to 2,000 people in the Columbus area are homeless. Valley Rescue Mission executive director Rhonda Mobley says it's a pretty high number for a city this size. "I believe that drugs and alcohol addiction are playing a tremendous role in people being homeless," she says.

The mission, which is almost always full, provides programs and a place to stay for a limited number of guests. This mission, like several other shelters are often filled to capacity and need more space. Chad Rollins is a resident who never thought he'd end up here. Sickness led to the loss of his job and home. "Its depressing all the way around like a circle if you can't work, you don't have a place to stay, you will lose your self respect, esteem, etc., not a pretty site," he says.

Chad hopes the Valley Rescue Mission will help long enough to get his life back on track. "I'm optimistic with the good lord's help, I'll be able to do something," he says.

Mobley says most people who go through the mission's programs are successful. "One of the things we do here at the mission is we allow a person to stay for a period of time. 90 days and that gives them time to get a job and to earn some money and save that money to be able to keep them when they do go back," she says.

But despite the help that programs like this provide, Johnson says society can do much more. "The people that has the resources, and I am basically talking about the believers, churchgoers, leave from behind the 4 walls and come out here in the gutters and just get em and help em where you can," he says.

The number of people on the streets is much greater than the amount of bed space available at local shelters. If you're interested in helping with this social issue you can contact the Homeless Resource Network, Inc. Their number is (706)571-3399.

Roszell Gadson