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Survey Says Macon's Homeless Aren't Newcomers | News

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Survey Says Macon's Homeless Aren't Newcomers

A recent study says Macon's homeless people generally aren't outsiders, they are long-time residents.

Phil Banze of the National Coalition for the Homeless and the Macon Coalition to End Homelessness presented the findings of a survey of Macon's homeless population to the Macon Community and Resources Development Committee Tuesday.

The survey was handed out to homeless people at various service organizations and asked them to 'self-report' on a series of questions.

Banze says the purpose was to investigate health issues plaguing the homeless community.

But he says one of the most interesting findings dispelled what he called a "common misconception," that homeless people living in Macon come here from other areas.

168 people filled out the survey in Macon. Banze says according to the results, people who are homeless in Macon have been living here for an average of 20 years.

He says other studies show once a person becomes homeless, they remain homeless for six to 12 months on average.

Banze says their study found that 70 percent of Macon's homeless have been living in the city for more than three years.

"We're talking about homeless individuals, the majority of whom here in Macon...lived here beforehand, became impoverished in Macon and then became homeless in Macon," says Banze.

"These are our own citizens, the thought that this is someone else's problem, that these people just showed up, is just not correct."

The study also revealed a lot of information about the health of Macon's homeless.

17.7 percent of homeless people who filled out the survey reported being infected with HIV or AIDS. Banze says that number is especially troubling.

He says 12 percent reported being drug users, 30.5 percent report drinking alcohol, and 70 percent say they're smokers.

He told council that drugs or alcohol use may be under reported in the survey, because people may be hesitant to admit it.

17 percent of people who filled out the survey say they're veterans and the average age of respondents was 46.

Banze says the numbers reveal a significant need for health care for the community's homeless.

But he says Macon simply doesn't have the resources to reach everyone in need.

He estimates local service organizations can only serve about a third of the 600 to 800 homeless people he says are living in Macon.

Councilman Rick Hutto asked Banze what council could do to help.

Banze says he's not asking for money, just support.

"I need passion, I need charisma, I need energy, I need people to care," says Banze.

He says it's frustrating to watch the community get upset over the recent closure of animal shelters when he sees so much human need in Macon.

"We have this massive controversy over animal shelters being in financial detriment at the moment, however we have human beings that are starving," says Banze.

Nov. 14-20 is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.

Banze says that's when they'll release the full results of their survey. He says he is also working with Macon City Council to proclaim Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.



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