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New Ventures gives update on homeless population

In the midst of the pandemic, many families have faced hardships, businesses have closed and some have lost their homes. 

New Ventures CEO Mike Wilson said immediately after COVID-19 started hitting the United States, he and others started looking at how the pandemic would affect the homeless population in LaGrange. 

“We work with the health department, so I was able to call them and let them know we had some funds,” Wilson said. “We approached the Callaway Foundation and, of course, they were also discussing ways they could be involved in homelessness and the coronavirus pandemic. They were able to make a grant to the Homeless Coalition that we utilized to put (homeless) people up if they were experiencing symptoms.” 

Wilson said a majority of the homeless population in LaGrange is either elderly or suffers from an underlying medical condition.

Wilson said the homeless population has become more visible in LaGrange, as some people are having to use places downtown to safely sleep. 

“I think there’s probably several factors that increase in that,” Wilson said. “I think that with the closing of businesses, and people having to shut their doors, I think it’s more out in front because they’re having to go to other levels to get assistance. I think at any given time we can say with the Department of Community Affairs that we have about 100 people who are homeless in LaGrange.” 

During the midst of the pandemic, New Ventures has also played a role in preventing people from becoming homeless. 

“I have not personally had people call and say ‘I lost my job and now I’m homeless,’” Wilson said. “I’ve had some people call and say, ‘I’m going to be homeless because of a variety of reasons.’ The same money we used with the Callaway Foundation to put people up, we felt like if we pay someone’s utility bill or help with rent, it would help keep them from going homeless. We have been able to utilize that and keep people in their homes.” 

At the beginning of September, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield signed a declaration determining that the evictions of tenants could be detrimental to public health control measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Essentially, the order temporarily halts residential evictions and is effective Sept.4 through Dec. 31. 

“Before that, we’ve talked to several relators in the business, and they all seem like they have gone out of their way to work with people to keep them in their homes,” Wilson said. 

Wilson said although some people can be apprehensive when it comes to talking to or helping homeless people, there are plenty of ways to help. 

“I think you just have to let your conscience guide you,” Wilson said. “Do or give what you feel like you ought to do and let God sort it out. I don’t think it is right for us to sit there and judge who needs what. Just do what we can.”

Additionally, the LaGrange-Troup County Homeless Coalition created a pamphlet called the “Troup County Street Beat” that holds all the contacts and information to organizations that help homeless people, job assistance, housing assistance and more. 

Wilson said that is also an option to carry with you and give out to people who are homeless in LaGrange. 

He added that if you can’t give money or feel comfortable giving money there are other ways to help. He said people can fill up a gallon sized Ziploc bag with socks, snacks, deodorant and dry goods to give to someone who is homeless. Wilson noted that when giving snacks make sure they can’t melt.  

“We try to talk and see what the situation is to try and evaluate or assess what their needs are,” Wilson said. 

“With the Street Beat, they are able to call and get help when they need assistance. They also have their own network inbetween themselves because they will call each other when something is going on.” 

Wilson also noted that despite public opinion, the homeless people in LaGrange aren’t from Atlanta and are all mostly from LaGrange. 

Wilson said during his five years working with the homeless community in LaGrange, the community has always stepped up to help when asked. 

“It just amazes me the spirit of giving,” Wilson said. “It starts with the city of LaGrange. You tend to think of government being hard on people who are homeless, but the city and the police work with them.” 

Those looking to get involved and help the homeless population in LaGrange can email super121@hotmail.com or call New Ventures at (706) 882-7723.