A second April work session for the Glynn County Commission is scheduled for Tuesday to handle information the commission couldn’t fit into the first.
Among the items commissioners plan to discuss Tuesday is an update on a proposed new shelter for Glynn County Animal Control.
“We’re going to receive a report on an option that (county) staff has come up with,” said commission Chairman Mike Browning. “They’re looking at every way they can to get it within budget. They came back and said they wanted to present us some options and get direction from the county commission.”
Commissioners set aside $1.5 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax 2016 revenue for the shelter, which it plans to build at the county’s public safety complex off the Ga. 25 Spur.
The department’s current shelter on U.S. Highway 17 was built in 2001. According to county officials, a number of structural issues have arisen in that time, some resulting from the low ground the shelter was built on. One commissioner described it earlier this month as “nearly a wetland.”
Plans for the new shelter came in well over-budget, however. At a commission meeting in May 2018, county officials revealed the shelter would likely cost $2.2-2.5 million.
“They’ve cut back all they can cut back as far as using the recommendations that were supplied by the site surveys, by people giving suggestions, recommendations and incorporating best practices into this facility,” Glynn County Police Chief John Powell said at the May meeting. “(Architect Robert) Ussery has done a tremendous job trying to reduce the cost to the taxpayers.”
Powell said at the meeting that county staff members were looking for ways to lower the cost, such as building the majority of the facility and continuing to partially use the old shelter until the county could complete the new one.
Since then, county officials have attributed the lack of progress on the shelter to a lack of funds.
Also on the agenda is a discussion of SPLOST 2020.
The subject of another penny sales tax first came up in public discussion at a county commission planning retreat in March. Commissioner Mike Browning said most commissioners were “receptive” to putting it on the ballot in the 2020 general presidential election.
Citizens voted to approve SPLOST 2016 during the 2016 general election. It will run for three and a half years, ending in September 2020 or when $71,595,000 in revenue has been collected.
When interviewed in March, most commissioners were in favor of imposing the next SPLOST for the maximum duration, five years.
As with SPLOST 2016, most commissioners also felt the projects on the list should be mostly, if not entirely, infrastructure repair or improvement projects.
The commission has until six months prior to the November 2020 general election to prepare a new SPLOST list and present it to the public for a vote.
Commissioners are also expected to discuss SPLOST-funded improvements to the Altama Connector around its intersection with the Ga. 25 Spur and a proposed lease with the St. Simons Boating and Fishing Club for the St. Simons Island Marina, located on Gascoigne Bluff.
The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday on the second floor of the Harold Pate Building, 1725 Reynolds St. in Brunswick.
They’re the invisible homeless.
Families who experience homelessness aren’t often the ones holding signs by the road or asking for aid in public. Instead, they’re dealing with their own unique set of challenges and working to stay together and stay safe. Like nearly all who are homeless, they’re also trying to climb out of a deep hole and take back control of their lives.
Family Promise is a national organization that takes a creative approach to offering homeless families a helping hand. And due to the community needs of Glynn County, Family Promise is considering supporting an affiliate in this area.
Lori Wilson, a representative of Family Promise, Inc., gave a presentation on April 25 at the Regional Community Collaborative meeting attended by representatives of many local nonprofits, churches and other organizations.
Wilson explained how Family Promise’s operation works to help families and asked those in attendance if they felt Glynn County needs this additional resource.
Family Promise takes a community-based approach to addressing family homelessness, Wilson said.
“The most important part of this organization of course are the families,” she said. “… Their mission is to empower children and families experiencing homelessness to achieve sustainable self-sufficiency.”
What are the needs
A husband and wife who supported their five children, until a work-site accident left the husband injured and unable to work. The man’s boss replaced him, and the family soon found themselves unable to afford their home and were evicted.
A single mom who escaped an abusive relationship and took her three children with her. She needed shelter, immediately.
In both situations, Family Promise stepped in to help.
Both stories, shared by Wilson at the meeting last week, concluded with happy endings, detailing how Family Promise offered help to families during a time of turmoil, after a mixture of unfortunate circumstances made them vulnerable to homelessness.
Both families were taken in by congregations in their community through Family Promise’s rotational shelter model.
“What’s unique about Family Promise is we use what we call a rotational model,” Wilson said. “We do not have a traditional shelter, typically.”
Congregations took the families in and offered them more than a bed to sleep in. Volunteers also formed relationships with the homeless families. Family Promise also offered resources like financial literacy training, job search assistance, counseling and more so that the families could get back on their feet.
Family Promise was founded in 1986. The national organization has more than 200 affiliates across the country, and more than 6,000 congregations of different faiths participate in the program.
Family Promise affiliates nearby include programs in Richmond Hill, Savannah, Jacksonville and in Effingham and Beaufort counties.
“I wish I could get up here and tell you, ‘Oh, we don’t need any more affiliates because the problem of homelessness is solved,’” Wilson said. “Well, sadly, that’s not the case.”
Studies show that about 35 percent of those without homes are families, Wilson said, and about 2.5 million children will experience homelessness this year in America.
“That’s one in 30 children,” she said.
About 43 percent of American households are financially vulnerable and at risk of homelessness, Wilson said.
When Family Promise explores new areas for affiliates, the national office completes a community-needs assessment. An assessment was recently done for Glynn County.
According to a local social worker, Wilson said, there were 233 known homeless school-age children in the 2017-2018 school year.
“I think we’d all agree that’s 233 homeless children too many,” Wilson said.
The assessment also indicated that more and more people in this area are challenged to secure stable housing.
“Glynn County may be a place that may be appropriate for an affiliate,”Wilson said.
How everyone helps
Family Promise takes the “community-based response” idea literally and reaches out to the faith community, asking them to open their places or worship to become temporary shelters.
“It’s rotational because families literally move from congregation to congregation every week or two, until their social worker and other people can help them find housing,” Wilson said.
The affiliate model is replicated in communities with certain minimum requirements and some flexibility in the specifics of the operation. At least 13 congregations need to initially commit in order for the program to get started.
Families move into a new congregation each Sunday. They’re dropped off by transportation provided by the affiliate.
“They have to take all of their belongings with them,” Wilson said.
Each day during the week, that transportation will take them to a day shelter that must be provided by the affiliate.
At the day shelter, children will be able to get to their bus for school. Other family members will leave from there for work or will spend their days at the shelter doing laundry, receiving services like financial literacy education and counseling and working toward finding housing.
The families return to the congregation in the evening, and every week the cycle begins again.
While the families are at the place of worship, two volunteers are required to be with them at all times, for the safety of all.
Families referred to Family Promise go through a criminal background check, drug testing and an assessment completed by a social worker, before they can be selected for the program.
Affiliates are like franchises of a larger company, Wilson explained.
“If your community were to decide that there was enough interest to move forward in at least considering a Family Promise affiliate in Glynn County, Family Promise national is here to provide you with all of the support you need along the way,” she said.
Family Promise takes a holistic approach by collaborating with other local community resources that serve the homeless and that offer programs that can help with a family’s needs.
“Our goal is for families to become and remain self sufficient,” Wilson said. “Our goal is that one day these families won’t need our services anymore.”
Family Promise only enters communities that the organization feels have a gap in services supporting homeless families.
That is the case in Glynn County, said Katie Hagin, homeless assistance and supportive housing manager for Gateway Behavioral Health Services in Brunswick. The Salvation Army overnight shelter serves only single adults, and Safe Harbor operates a shelter for youth.
“So families have to be separated in order to be sheltered at this point around here,” Hagin said.
Many homeless families in this community will opt to live in motels, but that choice presents a wide range of challenges. Motel living means cramming all family members and all belongings into a small space, where they have little privacy, no space to cook quality meals and an unsafe environment outside. The weekly costs of motel rooms also take a significant hit on the family’s budget.
The next step, if the community is interested in pursuing the option to start a Family Promise affiliate, is to host a community meeting, Wilson said. Support from the community is vital for the program’s success.
Families experiencing homelessness live unseen among their community members, Wilson said. Family Promise can remove that invisibility.
“A lot of people don’t even realize that around you have families experiencing homelessness. You just don’t see them, so it’s very isolating,” she said. “So the first thing you can do is extend the hand of friendship to them.”
City officials believe they have a solution to the numerous flooding problems experienced by residents in the College Park subdivision in recent years.
The Brunswick City Commission at Wednesday’s meeting will consider an intergovernmental agreement for the construction of an alternative storm drainage outfall route that would run along Georgia Spur 25 to the marsh. The proposed project is the first of four phases planned to improve drainage within the overall basin.
City officials considered several alternative solutions including a stormwater pump station, stormwater detention basin with the subdivision and improvements to the existing outfall route behind the Glynn Isles Shopping Center. But none of the alternatives were considered the best solution to solve the flooding problems.
Because the proposed outfall route runs along a state highway, Georgia Department of Transportation approval is required for construction. City officials plan to meet the requirements needed to complete the project.
The initial work includes surveys and some land acquisition along the proposed route.
The design and construction will take several years, according the proposal.
The design and engineering phase will cost $315,000, with two thirds of the cost paid by the county and one third by the city. The city’s portion of the contract will be funded through SPLOST VI funds.
Funding for the construction of the project will be addressed in a separate contract following the completion of the project design.
The commission will also consider an intergovernmental agreement with Glynn County to share the costs for design and engineering.
City officials will also consider a request to renew the city’s general liability and property insurance policy, and a Main Street memorandum of understanding between the city’s Downtown Development Authority, city of Brunswick and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.