VALDOSTA – Homelessness is a rising concern for Valdosta and Lowndes County residents as many individuals are still recovering after Hurricane Idalia’s impact and economic changes. A group of community members are collaborating to host a “STOMP-OUT Homelessness” event to assist local members in need.
The event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at the UNITY Park, Downtown Valdosta for the purpose of inviting the community to attend and help make provisions for those in need.
Dr. Beverley Richardson-Blake, one of the event organizers, said the planning for the event began in November as a result of a “GRITS & GRACE for Homelessness” Breakfast. Discussions were conducted with ministers, local elected officials, “help” agency representatives and interested community members regarding the increased number of students who could be or were classified as homeless within the local public school systems.
Attending local homeless programs and coalition members, and local public school administrators and social workers shared during the breakfast: Between Valdosta City and Lowndes County schools, there are more than 1,000 students who could technically be classified as homeless, according to Richardson-Blake. The number has increased recently, in part due to Hurricane Idalia.
“We believe if the community knows that there is a need then the community will band together to end this terrible situation of children that are living homeless,” LAMP Executive Director Yurshema Flanders said in a phone interview.
Flanders explained that LAMP is serving over 200 individuals daily who are experiencing homelessness and food insecurity.
“We can’t pop up shelters overnight, but if we could in the community raise some money and provide some of their needs, we could help some of those folks,” Richardson-Blake said.
Community members are asked to gather “gently worn,” clean warm items (coats, sweaters, gloves, hats/hoods, scarves, blankets) to donate at the event’s designated drop off area. Hot meals and entertainment will be provided.
The organizers are seeking agencies in the area to set up booths and share resources with the public.
“It is a critical need,” Richardson-Blake said. “We are all one paycheck away from being homeless.”
The local governments, City of Valdosta and Lowndes County, Georgia, are major sponsors of the event.
Any interested volunteers or sponsors should contact Dr. Beverley Richardson-Blake at (229) 460-9019.