August 6, 2022

What the organizer expects to find once Hall’s homeless count is done

Georgia’s Ministry of Community Affairs, which organizes the count and publishes the results in a report, canceled the 2021 count due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2019 report lists 149 homeless people in Hall County with 137 beds available.

After a call with statewide organizers on Friday, Jan. 14, Fisher said the count would be moved from Jan. 24 to another date near the end of February.

“They felt for the safety of the attendees, volunteers and coordinators that it was best that we didn’t,” said Fisher, who is also the program and housing planner for Ninth District Opportunity. “They think the peak of this omicron (variant) is supposed to occur until the end of January.”

The Northeast Georgia Health System reported 341 COVID-positive patients at its hospitals on Monday, Jan. 17, including 203 at Gainesville Hospital.

Monday’s COVID-positive patient count surpassed September’s last peak of 333 COVID-positive patients and is close to the NGHS’s highest count of 355 COVID-positive patients in January 2021.

Fisher said he thought the month-long deadline would give them more time to prepare and make sure everyone was counted.

By the end of the summer, Fisher said one or two homeless people would find him every week without food, extra clothing, money or shelter.

“Around the fall, I was getting two to three a day of the same characteristics, and since winter really started just before Christmas, I was getting five to seven a day,” Fisher said.

Before last weekend’s winter storm, Fisher and other volunteers worked to distribute tarps, hats, gloves and other warm clothing.

Regarding his prediction for the tally, Fisher said it would be “significantly higher.”

“I think it would be safe to say it will be double what it was last time,” Fisher said, with an estimate between 300 and 400.

Agencies that have helped the homeless have been pushed to their limits.

Andre Pereira of the Salvation Army said the shelter had been full every night for at least six months. The shelter has more than 40 beds, divided between men, women and families.

“The lack of housing in Hall County has definitely made it a bigger issue for homelessness,” Pereira said.

Over the past few weeks, Pereira said they had to turn away more people, although he didn’t have specific numbers to quote as of Monday, January 17.