Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Salvation Army funding delayed amid questions about turning people away

Mayor and Commission ask about help for single people on Macon streets, discuss short term vacation rental rules, delay vote on Daiquiris and More alcohol license

Concerns about the Salvation Army cutting its daily shelter program for single men and women led Macon-Bibb County commissioners to put off approving nearly $59,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the agency.

Sgt. Austin Sturdivant, who arrived in Macon early this year, said they re-evaluated their program after budget deficits and a Christmas Eve flood at the building off Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. resulted in the agency putting people up in motels for months.

A 2019 Mission Planning Study directed them to provide more resources for veterans, families, and single parents with children, and discontinue housing single men and women overnight unless there are adverse weather conditions.

Mayor Lester Miller told Sturdivant he was “very extremely disappointed with the Salvation Army” and mentioned that the Brookdale Resource Center has been at capacity many times since June when Salvation Army stopped taking in singles overnight. Miller noted that they only take in single veterans, which qualifies them for reimbursements from the Veterans Administration.

“When they saw that we were doing a good job over there, instead of serving the need that they could serve to help those single folk, they jumped in on the family deal and jumped on the veteran money, and to me that’s put us in a situation now where we have all these people on the street that we’re in dire need of taking care of,” Miller said.

The mayor said he offered the Salvation Army money to add on to their building and expand their program, but prior leadership rejected the funds “because they didn’t want to do the paperwork.”

Commissioners Al Tillman and Elaine Lucas said they believed the Salvation Army’s new policy is a form of discrimination.

Commissioner Virgil Watkins said he understood that children and women should be served before single men, but added that the homeless “coalition is leaving a lot of people on the streets.”

Sturdivant invited the Commission to come and visit to see how they are serving families and the mayor said he hoped the conversation could lead to a better partnership going forward.

They Commission voted to table consideration of the funding to further evaluate how to best serve the community.

Commissioners approved the rest of the nearly $460,000 in block grants from the federal government without much discussion.

They also wanted more time to study Commissioner Bill Howell’s proposal to enact rules and penalties for short term vacation rentals, which Commissioner Mallory Jones believed was too vague in its language.

Howell said he spent two years researching the issue and modeled the policy after similar ones in Florida and Tennessee.

That measure was tabled, along with the final denial of an alcohol license for Daiquiris and More in downtown Macon. After an executive session, the Commission did approve the final denial of an alcohol license for the former M&M Grocery on Montpelier due to the history of criminal activity around the store.

Here is a summation of Tuesday night’s debate and actions taken by the Commission in committee and at the board meeting captured in social media posts.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-318-8945.

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