Homelessness. When I think of homelessness I think of underprivileged, injustices, and poverty. It is everywhere in the world around us. I do not have a story that made me start writing about homelessness. I just wanted to have a voice for those who could not speak. I have been living in Hall county for a few years now, and it is something that I have seen here. When I started my job at the Gainesville Times I did not know what to write about or what to cover. I started researching and found that are so many people in our community in poverty or in a shelter, because they do not have a home. Before I came to the Gainesville Times, I worked for the LA Times out in Los Angeles and realized that crime and homelessness is on a bigger scale, but it is a part of the stigma there.
But here in little ol’ Gainesville things can be different. It is so small that everywhere you turn there is someone holding up a sign explaining how they need money and a home for their children. So I started researching more and seeing where other people in their situation have gone to ask for help. I found out about Under the Bridge and Good News at Noon. I felt some type of gravitation pull towards Under the Bridge and what they do. It is basically a bunch of people that do not have homes living underneath this shelter. I have been in there a couple times and it is dangerous to say the least. Everyone under there is so scared and sometimes it could get a little violent. I tried to interview people, well, as many as I could. But people ranged from addicts, to mothers with children and no father.
It was truly a horrible experience to witness so many people just trying to live and have somewhere to stay. Some people talked more than others, and no two stories were the same. I hated seeing children living under there, even if they had a playground at the entrance. No one should have to go through that and especially not alone or without someone to tell their story. So, I started broadcasting on my phone when I would go down there and just see who I could find to talk to. It was something that I wanted my friends and family to be aware of considering this was happening in their own backyard. It is one thing to see things happening and another to do something about it and try to shed light to what is going on and to get research on how to prevent it from continuing.
After a couple times when I went under the bridge and did a little broadcasting, I felt like more and more people were being informed on what was happening around them. I received calls from people asking me what they can do to help, or if I could take stuff down there for people to have. I even got people wanting to go to shelters and homeless pods to just listen to their story and see how to help them get out of their situation. Homelessness became what I focused on at the Gainesville Times.
I never imagined myself doing this for a living when I was in high school. Homelessness is a heavy topic, but needs light shed on it so that we can prevent it from happening in our community.
Last week was the last week for people living under the bridge. They began to tear it down, and everyone inside had to find somewhere else to go. It was awful. I tried to get in there to make sure I was able to get every story I could. It was tough seeing that everyone had to find a new place to live and to lose what had been their home for a long time. I have learned so much from them and from our community. When we get informed we act on things and try to make them better. So, yes homelessness is a very hard topic, but I think us wanting to be a part of their solution is what is going to really help us come together as a community.
I think that if we continue working together and we shed more light on the situation, we will truly make our community a better place.
Told by: Simone Lewis
This story originally appeared in Facing Homelessness in Hall County, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia.