Chatham Co. Expands Homeless Outreach Before Irma

Sep 8, 2017

Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless has beefed up outreach efforts ahead of Hurricane Irma, after Hurricane Matthew left some individuals stranded in high floodwater last year.


Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless executive director Cindy Murphy Kelley said Friday that teams had gone out to the area’s homeless camps, distributing fliers with information about the storm and the evacuation, which begins Saturday. She said they planned “to be a bit tougher with folks,” stressing the danger of the storm.


The authority did go around to the camps before Matthew, but some people didn’t get the message or didn’t realize how bad the storm would be.


Many homeless camps around Savannah are in particularly flood-prone areas, low-lying ground beneath underpasses and near canals that can overflow with storm surge.


During Matthew, Daisy Day and her boyfriend “almost floated down the river,” she said. They did watch most of their belongings float away.


In the same camp in West Savannah, the tropical storm-force winds knocked a tree onto the tent where Tommy Newsome was sleeping. He survived, but had to cut his way out. Afterward, he was in water up to his neck, he said.


Newsome said he knew the storm was coming, “but I didn’t think was going to be that bad.” In about four and a half years living outside in Savannah, he said he had never seen a storm that bad.


Less than a year after Matthew hit, that is certainly not the case for much of the area’s homeless population.


Murphy Kelley said as her staff has visited camps, people have told them they remember Matthew and remember they can go to the Savannah Civic Center. That’s where buses will depart beginning Saturday, carrying evacuees to Augusta shelters.

Many homeless people have cell phones and have been monitoring Hurricane Irma, Murphy Kelley said, just like other coastal residents. The general feeling for most, she said, is “here we go again.”