Is Mercy Ministries helping or hurting Harrisburg?

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Homeless and wheelchair-bound, Bennie Stokes will take whatever benevolence he can get.

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Bennie Stokes waits for someone to take him to the Greene Street Salvation Army shelter after spending his day at Mercy Ministries in Harrisburg.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Bennie Stokes waits for someone to take him to the Greene Street Salvation Army shelter after spending his day at Mercy Ministries in Harrisburg.

A diabetic, he had both legs amputated below the knees at Medical College of Georgia Hospital a few years ago after his feet became infected, and he has been exiled to the streets for the past month, he said, because none of his brothers, sisters or friends want him in their homes until his Social Security benefits kick in.

He spends his nights in the Greene Street Salvation Army shelter and, with a little help from a friend, his days in the heart of Harrisburg.

When morning comes and the shelter orders everyone out, fellow Salvation Army resident Kevin Hodge pushes him on a milelong journey, over the Butt Memorial Bridge, past the 15th Street Kroger, then up Fenwick Street and to Mercy Ministries, at the corner of Crawford Avenue.

Inside the red commercial building is the only day shelter in the city, the only place for the homeless to come in out of the elements, bathe, wash clothes and eat a warm meal.

While about a dozen men dozed in front of a television set Tuesday, Stokes sat outside a side door in the warm sun while a steady procession of men and women came and went between the door and the sidewalk.

"Wherever my friends go, I go," Stokes said.

Efforts are under way, though, to see him and his friends pushed some other direction.

Since Mercy Ministries co-founder and Executive Director Fran Oliver opened the shelter three years ago, she has been under fire from neighborhood activists charging that the shelter has made Harrisburg a mecca for street people, blaming it for an increase in crime and litter.

With the new Kroc Center scheduled to open in Chaffee Park in summer 9, and with developers such as Clay Boardman showing interest in the renaissance a nearly $100 million investment could usher into the decaying former mill village, some business interests have reasons of their own for wanting the shelter out of the way.

Hindering gentrification

While Harrisburg activists such as Butch Palmer and Lori Davis have been wielding the stick -- first a petition, then the push for a Chronic Nuisance Properties Ordinance, now threats of civil action against building owner Joe Smith -- businessman Donnie Thompson and the Rev. Kelly McKnight are trying a carrot:

A new citywide day shelter, located in downtown's industrial zone in the vicinity of Garden City Rescue Mission and the Masters Table soup kitchen, consolidating all the homeless services in Augusta under one roof, making them better poised to obtain federal funds, with an invitation for Oliver to have a leadership role.

"Right now, it's just talk, that's all," said Thompson, the chief executive of Windsor Jewelers, who has met with Commissioner Matt Aitken about the idea.

McKnight, a Harrisburg resident and the pastor of Bible Deliverance on Fenwick Street, said it's going to take an influx of families for the neighborhood to realize the promise of the Kroc Center, but no family is going to buy a house with sketchy-looking men and women traversing the sidewalks.

His church has a homeless outreach of its own, Another Chance Ministry Network. If a new day shelter opened, it would move its Sunday morning breakfasts downtown, he said.

"Hopefully, Mercy Ministries would want to be there," McKnight said. "If a centralized day shelter is going to succeed, it would be very important to have their participation."

To that, Oliver said she respectfully declines. Not all churches and nonprofits share her ideas about how things should be run, and she's not interested in joining forces with them. Nor is she inclined to move locations to get out of the sights of Palmer and Davis.

"Why would I care?" Oliver said. "I do what God wants me to do. Not Butch Palmer."

The nature of the issue

Oliver said the people who want her out don't understand the nature of her operation or the nature of homelessness in Augusta. To the charge that Mercy Ministries is a magnet for vagrants, she laughed.

The majority of the people she serves -- providing showers, bathrooms, phones, computer kiosks, help paying for medications and help obtaining identification cards -- live in Harrisburg, one of the poorest sections of the city, which is why she moved her operation there in the first place, she said.

"When we were on Laney-Walker, we had to drive to Harrisburg to help people," said Oliver, who founded the ministry with her late husband, Jerry.

Of the 30 or so people who come to her each day, Oliver estimated about five come from downtown. The rest either sleep in abandoned houses in Harrisburg, or rent units there but can't afford utilities or groceries.

And if the homeless are congregating in Harrisburg, she said, it's not because of Mercy Ministries. Both Oliver and McKnight say people in their programs tell them that, when the homeless go downtown, police order them to stay above 15th Street during daylight hours.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he knows of no such practice. His deputies may order loitering vagrants on Broad Street to move along, but they don't tell them which direction to go.

Oliver did say that if a downtown center opened, she'd be willing to stop calling Mercy Ministries a homeless day shelter, focusing on the after-school program, assistance for the poor in Harrisburg, the thrift shop and the adjacent quadruplex boardinghouse, where 12 people live in an old schoolhouse building owned by the ministry.

Oliver said she would encourage people coming from the Salvation Army, Garden City Rescue Mission or Augusta Rescue Mission to stay downtown. Asked what she'd do if they kept coming to her anyway, she said she'd deal with that when it happened.

Alan Ziobrowski, an associate professor of real estate at Georgia State University who commutes from Columbia County, said there's no question an epicenter for homeless foot traffic will have a negative effect on revitalization efforts.

Regardless, now is the wrong time to start a gentrification push, he said, given the state of the housing market, the difficulty homebuyers are having obtaining loans and the oversupply of houses in the area. Even if a developer did buy up swaths of land, pushed out the poor and built new houses or condos, they'd likely sit empty, Ziobrowski said.

Nuisance in numbers?

Palmer, a lifelong Tuttle Street resident, said he disputes Oliver's estimate of five of 30 people coming to Mercy Ministries from downtown, saying every day he counts dozens of men walking up Fenwick toward the building.

"I'm all for what they're doing," he said. "It's like I've said all along -- wrong location."

Palmer began his public assault on the ministry in March 2008, when he submitted a petition with 137 signatures to the Augusta Commission, calling for Mercy Ministries to be relocated or shut down and blaming it for an "increase in crime, litter and the residents' sense of fear."

On his Web site and in media interviews, Palmer called Oliver a religious fanatic, an enabler of "riff raff" who was "importing a ghetto into our neighborhood."

He's since been joined in his pro-gentrification cause by Davis, a Crawford Street resident. Last summer, they organized a series of protests against drug dealers and their landlords, targeting three rental houses that they termed the worst nuisance properties in Harrisburg, but they did nothing against Mercy Ministries.

Davis is now president of the Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association and an appointed member of the Chronic Nuisance Properties Ordinance committee, which is drafting a new city code holding landlords accountable for their tenants' criminal behavior. She said they held off on Mercy Ministries because they didn't want to risk being politically ostracized for picketing a religious outreach.

Two of the "nuisance" rental houses they did protest had been visited by sheriff's deputies 41 times and 35 times within a period of just over a year and a half.

By contrast, there were 160 calls to Mercy Ministries between January 2008 and mid-February, 70 of them over verbal or physical altercations, according to Richmond County Sheriff's Office records. Others were over suspicious situations, thefts and burglaries, wanted persons and suicide attempts, among other things.

'We're the victims'

Annette Drowlette, Mercy Ministries' board chairwoman, characterized the calls as the shelter policing itself, which analysis of the figures bears out.

According to phone logs, at least 135 of the calls can be traced to Mercy Ministries, from the main line, the fax line, Oliver's cell phone or staffers' and volunteers' cell phones.

"We're the victims there," Drowlette said.

Of the total calls, 42 rose to the level of generating written incident reports, many of them fights involving residents of the boardinghouse.

Only three resulted in arrests, two for assault and one for possession of cocaine, which stemmed from an anonymous tip about a woman parked outside in a Ford Escort, according to the incident report.

During the same period, the Salvation Army shelter had 337 calls, and Garden City Rescue Mission had 164 calls.

Neither those aspects, nor the fact that most of Mercy Ministries' calls were self-reported, move Davis.

"That just goes to show that they have problems," she said, "and don't need to be dealing with their problems in the middle of a residential neighborhood."

Had enough

Last week, Davis began taking steps to go after the shelter before a new nuisance ordinance is adopted, saying the problem has become too pressing to wait for that or another day shelter to open.

In e-mails to the city's Law Department and acting State Court Solicitor P.J. Campanaro, she said she wants to file charges against Mercy Ministries' landlord under the state's nuisance abatement code. The law says a complaint has to be filed by a city attorney or city prosecutor, and Davis is still waiting for a response.

"My ultimate goal is to get them out, but not in another three years," she said.

Davis and Palmer said they're also preparing to file Magistrate Court claims against the building owner and another Harrisburg landlord.

Palmer said the one involving Mercy Ministries will be for $15,000, which includes his rental property losses caused by the neighborhood's perceived crime problem and the $1,500 he donated toward bringing consultant John H. Campbell to Augusta last month to speak to the ordinance committee.

Thompson and McKnight remain in the brainstorming stages of their plan.

According to the city's Housing and Community Development Department, no one has filed an application for Community Development Block Grant or Emergency Shelter Grants Program funds, either of which could be used for a shelter. The deadline is March 25.

McKnight said he's working on that.

Harrisburg's city commissioner said he supports their idea, agreeing there's a need for homeless services and that Mercy Ministries could be a detriment to revitalization. At the same time, he credits Oliver for taking on a problem no one else was willing to touch.

"You've got to take your hats off to them," Aitken said. "At least they're trying."

Oh, Mercy: people and personalities

James R. "Butch" Palmer, neighborhood activist
A lifelong Tuttle Street resident who's been railing against religious groups and welfare recipients for the past three years, Palmer gained a following and, last year, some political clout. First he was elected to the Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association's board of directors, then he ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 commission seat, throwing his support behind the eventual winner, Matt Aitken.
"If they weren't there, the troublemakers wouldn't be coming into the neighborhood," he says of Mercy Ministries.

Lori Davis, neighborhood activist
She joined Palmer's cause in 2007 and last year emerged as another outspoken leader in the push for Harrisburg gentrification, organizing and leading a series of protests against drug dealers and their allegedly enabling landlords. In December, Davis became president of the neighborhood association with the ouster of former President Denice Traina, and Commissioner Joe Bowles has appointed her to the commission's Chronic Nuisance Properties Ordinance committee.
"It seems to be a steady stream of what I consider vagrants and panhandlers," she said of Mercy Ministries. "I've been here nine years. They were not walking the streets before Mercy Ministries came."

Kelly McKnight, Pastor of Bible Deliverance Temple
His church has a homeless outreach of its own, Another Chance Ministries, but he said that with the coming of the Kroc Center, he's seeing how ministries that attract homeless foot traffic could be a drag on revitalization efforts. McKnight has been brainstorming with businessman Donnie Thompson and Kroc Center coordinator Derek Dugan on establishing a citywide day shelter downtown, one that - unlike Mercy Ministries - wouldn't allow its clients to come and go at all hours of the day.
"Now is the time to do something to take the community back," he said.

Fran Oliver, Mercy Ministries co-founder and executive director
She and her late husband, Jerry, opened the first Mercy Ministries day shelter on Laney-Walker Boulevard in 2002, then opened at the current location in Harrisburg in March 2007. Shortly thereafter, they began renting rooms in the adjacent boardinghouse. Oliver said she's not leaving Harrisburg, despite an invitation to join a new day shelter being pitched for downtown.
"I'm not trying to be stubborn about it, but there's a need for us," she said. "When all the Starbucks and all the revitalization moves up, there will be no need for us, and we'll be gone."

Donnie Thompson, business owner
The chief executive of Windsor Jewelers and founder of downtown's annual Thunder Over Augusta event, he's backing McKnight in a plan to open a new day shelter in downtown's industrial area. He said he's mostly concerned about the number of homeless downtown, and a centralized day shelter could offer services to get them back on their feet.
"These people, if they sleep in the streets, they're in no position to find employment," he said.
"There's some of them that just need a helping hand, and there's some of them that probably won't ever get out of that situation."

Matt Aitken, District 1 city commissioner
He's had a meeting with McKnight and Thomp­son about their plan, and said he supports it. Though he wants to see Harrisburg cleaned up - Palmer's contingent helped elect him, after all - he's also complimentary of Oliver's compassion for the poor. In a Feb. 22 Administrative Services committee meeting, Aitken said Mercy Ministries has been taking heat and the city needs a new day shelter. "If I had 160 (police) calls next to me, I wouldn't like it, either," he said.
-- Johnny Edwards, staff writer

Harrisburg-area homeless outreach

Mercy Ministries

1739 Fenwick St. - (706) 737-0242

Funded by donations and grants, Mercy Ministries operates the city's only day shelter for the homeless in the former Beauford Glass building at the corner of Crawford Avenue and Fenwick Street.

There's also a volunteer-run thrift shop, and the ministry rents out rooms in a two-story boardinghouse next door, where 12 people live.

Among the offerings for the poor and homeless are showers, a washer and dryer, meals, a food pantry, clothing giveaways, phones, computer kiosks, transportation for the disabled, help buying medications, help paying utilities, help obtaining identification, help building wheelchair ramps, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Narcotics Anonymous meetings and Bible studies.

The ministry also has an after-school program and youth baseball team.

ANOTHER CHANCE MINISTRY NETWORK

1857 Fenwick St. - (706) 736-1600

An outreach of Bible Deliverance Temple, Another Chance holds breakfasts for the homeless on Sunday mornings at 8:30.

It's also housing formerly homeless people in eight houses. Seven are occupied by families, and one has four single men living in it.

harrisburg-area Food pantries

- Crawford Avenue Baptist Church, 507 Crawford Ave., (706) 738-2527. 10 a.m. to noon on fourth Mondays. Social Security card and picture ID required.

- Christ Episcopal Church, 1904 Greene St., (706) 736-5165. 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. first and third Thursdays. First 60 clients. Picture ID required. Soup kitchen 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

- Bible Deliverance Temple, 1857 Fenwick St., (706) 736-1600. For emergencies only. By appointment only.

- Grace Street Church of Christ, 120 Grace St., (706) 736-0222. 9 a.m. to noon fourth Saturdays. Picture ID required. Emergency assistance at other times by appointment.

FOR A LIST OF other Augusta-area agencies offering assistance to the poor, go to tinyurl.com/yaghlzw.

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deekster
24
Points
deekster 03/14/10 - 05:37 am
0
0
I think that it is sad that

I think that it is sad that "personalities" get in the way so often in Augusta. There is a "human need". No one can deny same. But "duplication of service/locations" is not the answer. Even McDonald's "over built" and had to "restructure". THE SALVATION ARMY is the organization to handle "the need". This organization has the "infrastructure", "hard working", "selfless servants", and the "knowledge of decades" in service to the needy. And they are "cost effective". And it is a "business". Direct the funds to THE SALVATION ARMY. Help them build a much larger "homeless center". I am afraid that much of the problems reside in "its my work" and ego. Not to mention, the steady stream of "federal grant money". I wonder how many "Good Samaritans" would operate without "Uncle Sam's redistribution of taxpayer money". Charity by "force of a gun" is "no charity". How much wasted money? It has become a "charity bureaucracy". So called "volunteers" have become taxpayer/grant fund paid administrators". They remind me of TV preachers selling Christ for a buck. Exploit the "homeless" and draw a nice salary from Uncle Sam. Over count the "homeless" and make even more money. Feed the Children "sells groceries" you pay for and give away. Does it sound familiar. And their CEO's, husband and wife make $350,000 plus a year. Sacrificial God's Work. I don't think so.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 03/14/10 - 05:40 am
0
0
Put the money "where it will

Put the money "where it will do the most good". Stop the "petty, its my work". For once think about the "needed" instead of your own EGO. Support THE SALVATION ARMY. Build a "new central homeless shelter", and let The SA manage same.

RAINBOW
11
Points
RAINBOW 03/14/10 - 08:10 am
0
0
From the way that crowd is

From the way that crowd is acting,you would think Harrisburg was gonna be their eternal home.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 03/14/10 - 08:35 am
0
0
No doubt Rainbow, Butch
Unpublished

No doubt Rainbow, Butch Palmer and Lori Davis et al act like Harrisburg is all the heaven they're ever going to know. Jesus must be coming soon, ministries are now being vilified as "nuisance properties".

cakewalk30904
0
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cakewalk30904 03/14/10 - 09:02 am
0
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If you build it...They will

If you build it...They will come.

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 03/14/10 - 09:08 am
0
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"Bennie Stokes...... exiled

"Bennie Stokes...... exiled to the streets for the past month, he said, because none of his brothers, sisters or friends want him in their homes until his Social Security benefits kick in."......??????? This guy has FAMILY who will not help him because of money...?? A fine group of folks they must be.

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 03/14/10 - 09:11 am
0
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If Fran were not making money

If Fran were not making money she would not be in the Mercy Ministries business. If Fran is so about dedication to the "poor" cause... why doesn't she live in Harrisburg ? FranOliver is a very shrewd business woman and a fine actress.

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 03/14/10 - 09:13 am
0
0
bettyboop...Yes, there are

bettyboop...Yes, there are people who are ruthless and will not help others ...welcaom to lowlife...welcome to Harrisburg....Now, can't you see why we want these people out of here?

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 03/14/10 - 09:30 am
0
0
cleanup...Have a heart for

cleanup...Have a heart for Harrisburg...CAN FRAN!

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 03/14/10 - 09:45 am
0
0
Mercy Ministries is actually

Mercy Ministries is actually neither. Everyone I've spoken to has said nothing about a chapel service (as Garden City Rescue Mission does)nor any sort of rehab services (not much of a ministry)nor is it merciful to take peoples SSI checks and dole out money to them( all for a fee I'm sure) and enable them rather than actually help them. Call Lori and Butch whatever you wish, but until you've had to live next to such a place it's hard to put much credence to any criticism. If Fran is doing as, she says, "God's work" how bout doing it in HER neighborhood, or better yet your neighborhood.The tune would be different then I'm sure. Secondarily, follow the money. If Ms. Oliver wasn't making money somewhere this place would not be in the middle of our neighborhood.Altruistic? I think not.

Junket831
0
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Junket831 03/14/10 - 10:18 am
0
0
Why in the world the county

Why in the world the county government would allow a homeless shelter to set-up shop in a neighborhood is beyond stupidity. I don't blame any of the Harrisburg residents for being up in arms and loudly complaining. We would all be doing the same if it happens in our neighborhood. This type of activity should be zoned out and encouraged to locate in a specific area in which government and social service organizations can provide maximum support. There is nothing simple about trying to solve the homeless problem. It isn't as easy as providing a shelter because of the many complicating factors, not the least of which is mental health. Can you imagine the uproar if the shelter was located in Port Royal or in the heart of Laney Walker or Wheeler Road? Shut it down now and offer Oliver a chance to either relocate to her neighborhood or to the location Mr. Thompson and Mr. McKnight are proposing. The sooner we turn around Harrisburg the better off Richmond County will be in terms of a quality city and lower crime.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 03/14/10 - 10:36 am
0
0
Lets get serious folks.. this

Lets get serious folks.. this Fran Oliver woman is not doing this to "help" ppl.. she is doing it for to get in on the "gravy train" of tax money. Why did she so easily dismiss the idea of joining a consolidated day shelter downtown in a non resi9dential area? because then she would not be getting the money she is now. Ms Oliver lives in Evans, not Harrisburg. Imagine how her neighbeors would feel if she opened one of her flop houses in their neighborhood?? And that is exactly what Mercy is.. a flop house. Kudos to Butch and Lori for keeping the heat on this slumlord. I am sick and tired of slumlords calling themselves religous outfits and then that somehow absolves them of all repsonsibility. Fooey.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/14/10 - 10:54 am
0
0
You do know that Fran Oliver

You do know that Fran Oliver makes money by essentially confiscating social security checks.. then giving bits and pieces back to the homeless she is supposedly trying to help and taking the rest. How is this at all altruistic? Where is the rehab? Where is the outreach? where is the job training? This is a govt tax payer gravy train for Oliver, paid for by you and me.. and it is destroying Harrisburg. Would have been nice if Mr Edwards had bothered to ask a few more questions to Ms Oliver.

harrisburgwillrise
0
Points
harrisburgwillrise 03/14/10 - 10:56 am
0
0
As a Harrisburg resident I

As a Harrisburg resident I would like to applaud the efforts of Kelly McKnight. He works with the homeless and holds them accountable. His program has goals and if they do not meet the goals, they are out of the program and the neighborhood. Fran Oliver could learn a lesson from him, and by the way, Kelly lives in Harrisburg. While Ms. Oliver is in her home on Stevens Creek Rd, her Mercy Manor boarders are picking up neighborhood prostitutes. I witnessed this just the other day and confronted one of her renters. Also, Ms. Oliver will take rent money, but if the tenant causes trouble, she bans them from the ministry. You can live here but not worship here. This was told directly to me by one of her boarders who was angered by this wanted me to know what was going on. More power to the people of Harrisburg. File that lawsuit against the landlord Joe Smith. He is the true enabler.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/14/10 - 11:02 am
0
0
Lori Davis needs to run for

Lori Davis needs to run for mayor.. if she can do for the rest of Augusta what she has done for Harrisburg then this city would thrive.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/14/10 - 11:19 am
0
0
By the way.. Butch Palmer

By the way.. Butch Palmer actively campaigned for Mr Aitken and delivered easily 500 votes for him which made the difference in the outcome. Mr Palmer also spent $1500 of his own money to bring CNPO expert John Campbell to Augusta .. by far one of the largest donors to the cause.. and he did so with no fanfare

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 03/14/10 - 11:27 am
0
0
Granted, there will always be

Granted, there will always be the poor among us and trying to help them is a noble cause. But the vast majority of people I see coming to MM (excepting those like Mr. Stokes) are, in the old vernacular, bums. Middle aged men, (no women and children) who would rather drink than work. Remember, there were twelve bums asleep in front of the tv when Johnny showed up. No doubt while I was at work paying taxes to help keep this sorry place open. MM has got to go!

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/14/10 - 11:32 am
0
0
I am all for helping the

I am all for helping the truly needy.. by giving them a hand up.. giving them training.. preparing them for a job.. and then holding them accountable. MM does none of that. It is nothing but a revenue stream for Fran Oliver.

Ayetidiosi
2
Points
Ayetidiosi 03/15/10 - 01:29 pm
0
0
TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 03/14/10 - 11:47 am
0
0
There's no question in my
Unpublished

There's no question in my mind. Yes- it hurts Harrisburg. Everyday people don't want homeless people hanging around their neighborhoods. However, they need to be given food & shelter. Why not find one of these small towns on the outskirts of Augusta that is pretty much dead. Set up some basic housing, a clinic, and some workshops to get these people ready to re-enter society in a respectful and proud manner. Have them help themselves and consolidate services in one location where they're not bothering anyone and they don't have to beg or feel worthless. This way they don't have to be shuffled around town from daylight to nightfall and are given the privacy to get back on track.

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 03/14/10 - 12:10 pm
0
0
Ayetidiosi...The GIS is

Ayetidiosi...The GIS is public information....

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 03/14/10 - 12:15 pm
0
0
Oh, Doc,,,it is Moderator

Oh, Doc,,,it is Moderator not Moduhrator. See you in court! OTFL

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 03/14/10 - 12:16 pm
0
0
TrukinRanger... Great idea. I

TrukinRanger...
Great idea. I like the way you talk.

Ayetidiosi
2
Points
Ayetidiosi 03/14/10 - 12:19 pm
0
0
I see they didn't ban you.

I see they didn't ban you. Beeg mistake. Bye bye y'all.

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 03/14/10 - 12:20 pm
0
0
"Ole Fran "got rocks" Oliver,

"Ole Fran "got rocks" Oliver, she made her money that she passed on to her children off of grants for the homeless" ....This is what people will be saying twenty years from now.

vetbubba99
6
Points
vetbubba99 03/14/10 - 12:28 pm
0
0
Since the Board of the

Since the Board of the Augusta Task Force for the Homeless began the business of closing, of which Mr. Dugan was and still is a member, Mercy Ministries has tried to help the homeless and people hurting that was previously served and stayed there during the day. Every day our community sees how the closing of this homeless facility truly has caused a void in Augusta's homeless services with people in need being lost as to where to go for what. All Ms. Fran has done is tried to pick up the pieces and serve as some source or contact for those in need with programs and services they need. Ms. Fran does all this with mostly her own funds and faith based contributions. She and her husband, always gave and she continues to give more to help people in need than they keep for themselves. With the opening of the Kroc Center's First Stop and the Richmond County Board of Education's moving the Alternative Center down the street from them, it would appear that her location right in between the two would be a good fit. Was not the goal to move the homeless and people in need away from downtown to help it with revitilizing? Looking at the Kroc Center's First Stop Services page and Partners page, as listed on their web site http://www.uss.salvationarmy.org/uss/www_uss_augustakroc.nsf for homeless and people in need in the community, I don't understand why moving them back to downtown would be good. According the the web site for the Kroc Center, Augusta, GA, the "First Stop Family Services Center" on the Kroc Center propoerty will provide a "full continuum of services" in one center, including:
a food pantry
rent and utilities assistance
VA services
United Way offices will relocate completely to the First Stop Center
And the following agencies are listed on the site as "Planning Programming or Services in the Augusta Kroc Center":
American Red Cross
Area Agency on Aging
The Art Factory
ASU Literacy Center
Augusta Players
Augusta Technical College
Augusta Urban Ministries
Behavioral Health Link
Boys and Girls Clubs of Augusta
CSRA EOA
Department of Family and Child Services
Family Counseling Center of the CSRA
The Family Y
Fireside Ministries
Friendship Community Center
GA Department of Labor
Goodwill Industries
The Greater Augusta Arts Council
Junior Achievement
Safe Homes of Augusta, Inc.
Senior Citizens Council
Serenity Behavioral Health Systems
United Way 2-1-1
United Way of the CSRA
Veteran's Administration
These agencies listed do serve the homeless and people in need. With DFCS being there, just think of how many will go there to apply for food stamps alone. Do you not think the homeless and people in need will be not go there to use the First Stop Center????? Ms. Fran is a sweet and caring lady. Since the Augusta Task Froce is no more, the City needs to decide who will serve as the continuum's center for homeless and people in need and where do we want them to do for care. If the Kroc Center's First Stop Center is going to be the first stop for homeless and people hurting, then she is in a good spot. If it is going to be back downtown, then the Kroc Center's First Stop Center may not be used.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/14/10 - 12:28 pm
0
0
Butch and Lori should bring

Butch and Lori should bring their protest group to Fran Oliver's Evans neighborhood. Let's see how she and her neighbors would like that kind of disruption.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 03/14/10 - 12:31 pm
0
0
They should protest dressed

They should protest dressed as vagrants and winos with signs saying.. "How would you like this in YOUR neighborhood on a daily basis??"

CorporalGripweed
0
Points
CorporalGripweed 03/14/10 - 12:47 pm
0
0
I don't think any one

I don't think any one involved in this effort to shut down MM wants to deny those who truly want to better themselves. The issue is having to live near those who DON'T want to better themselves. No doubt the Kroc Center will have options for those who are truly interested in a hand up. But we in the neighborhood have had a hard time swallowing the fact that MM is crowded by those who WON'T EVER CHANGE.Bringing them to a residential area is hardly a solution.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 03/14/10 - 12:52 pm
0
0
The high number of police

The high number of police calls at MM tells it all. These are not just the poor downtrodden unfortunates of liberal fairy tale fame. The vast majority are just plain bad people, who occupy this nitch in life because of their own actions. Having said that; I, for one, believe in offering those who will take it, an opportunity to return to productive lives. However, they must be personally accountable for their actions or lack thereof. The development of a single source shelter to take care of immediate needs is a long time in coming. This sort of activity has no place in a residentail neighborhood.

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