What Else Can We Do?
Bigger Vision is committed to helping improve the lives of those experiencing homelessness, providing direct help in getting out of homelessness, and/or referring people to other services they may need. However, Bigger Vision and other organizations helping the homeless cannot solve this problem alone. All of the Athens community must come together to help people experiencing homelessness and build a community that is sustainable, affordable, and safe for all its inhabitants.
Homelessness is a crisis for the people and community experiencing it, and Athens must provide immediate relief and design long-term solutions. Explore the rest of this page to learn some of our priorities for reducing homelessness.
The supply of shelter beds in Athens is significantly lower than the demand for shelter, and we have to turn people away after reaching our 35-person nightly capacity. Being unsheltered increases the stress and danger of experiencing homelessness. People that do not have a place overnight or get supplies during the day are exposed and defenseless against the searing heat and drenching storms characteristic of Athens summers and the low temperatures of winter. Beyond the elements, crime victimization and conflict with businesses and the police are hazards for the unsheltered homeless. The supply of emergency shelter beds must grow to meet the needs of the rising homeless population. Shelters like Bigger Vision are seeking grant funding from the government and private foundations to expand their capacity, but community support is the most critical need.
Beyond growing shelter capacity, Bigger Vision and other providers need community support to increase the range and comprehensiveness of the services we offer. Bigger Vision is currently working to hire several new staff, including a social worker, to provide better case management services. Case management provides counseling and advocacy with the goal of helping clients find a job, improve their mental health, secure affordable housing, and address any other needs or goals they have.
Help Support Our Mission
Athens Must Expand Emergency Shelter Services
Athens Must Create Affordable Housing Developments
The Athens-Clarke government recently passed a voluntary affordable zoning ordinance that waives certain fees for developments that include a certain percentage of affordable units, but more policy work is necessary. Housing in Athens is prohibitively expensive compared to other communities in Georgia. The fair market rate rent in Athens-Clarke County is more expensive than 81% of Georgia communities. Any household that spends more than 30% of their income on housing is considered housing burdened by HUD. In Athens, low-income households spend an average of 62% of their income on housing. A large part of the housing crisis in Athens is due to the limited supply of affordable housing.
Many new developments are extremely expensive apartment complexes and student housing. Zoning policy must be further reformed in order to attract more private affordable development and expand the ability of nonprofits to create affordable housing initiatives. Minimum density requirements for multifamily-zoned lots, reduced lot size requirements, and further incentives are potential zoning strategies.