In looking at nonprofits in Athens-Clarke County, it’s interesting to note the difference in revenues for foundations and organizations connected to the University of Georgia versus the low-income groups I’m trying to investigate in the city. Some of the sororities and fraternities even beat out important ACC services in the top 50. That could be a fun numbers story in itself.
I decided to delve into homelessness (and JoAnn into mental health) as we looked at how low-income people are helped in the county. At first glance, it looks like there are several groups that help address the housing problem in Athens, but when I dug into it further, I saw that these groups are interconnected and run by the same people. So in Athens, maybe the story is about how different aspects of homelessness are addressed — the Athens Homeless Shelter tackles the housing, Athens PBJs (created by a UGA student who graduated my year, actually) looks at the issue of food and friendship for the homeless, and two or three groups focus on the rehab aspect of substance abuse. Do these organizations work together, or is there a gap? (From past interviews with the Athens PBJ founder, there’s a gap, of course) Does the group that addresses housing in particular have a good handle on the situation, or do we actually need additional aid with homeless shelters in Athens? What will the Athens Resource Center for the Homeless (created in 2011) do to help the Athens area, and is the group pushing it forward successfully?
If these questions seem tenuous or broad, I thought about a particular story I was covering in Gainesville/Hall County when I left the newspaper there. There are actually several groups trying to help with the homeless housing issue in Gainesville that address it in very different ways, and one group is seeking to pull them together. In addition, a group of churches are trying to band together to create a homeless housing network (Interfaith Hospitality Network) that has been formed successfully in counties such as Gwinnett. I still have contacts with these groups, so it could make for an interesting look into how these different organizations are trying to provide shelter, especially because I know they probably haven’t been able to pull together in consensus yet. The fact that homelessness is so high in Gainesville is also surprising — something that seems a bit more ignored or shoved under the rug up there than here in Athens.
I could do both stories. Or I could combine them and look at how nonprofits in neighboring counties are addressing homelessness in rather different ways. I welcome feedback!