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Audit: Georgia should consider statewide council for homelessness

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(The Center Square) — Georgia lawmakers should explore establishing a statewide council if they want a more coordinated approach to address homelessness, a new audit found.

The audit, conducted as part of Senate Bill 62 that state lawmakers passed last year, concluded that the feds awarded “significant” money for homeless programs and services, but the “state lacks a coordinated response to homelessness.”

According to the audit, state agencies, local governments and service providers had access to roughly $706.3 million in federal money between fiscal years 2018 and 2022 for homeless programs and services — about 40% for state agencies and 60% for local governments and service providers. Roughly 78% of the federal funds available were spent.

According to the audit, state tax dollars represented a “small portion” of the total spending during the timeframe. The state spent $158 million on homeless programs and services between fiscal years 2018 and 2023.

“Because state and local governments often serve as pass-through entities, most federal funding in Georgia is ultimately spent by nonprofit and for-profit service providers,” the audit found.

“While a significant amount of funding is dedicated to activities and services related to homelessness, operations are decentralized, and management is primarily concentrated at the local level with no state-level entity designated to coordinate efforts across all regions,” the audit found.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness recommends a state-level entity to coordinate efforts, and 33 states and the District of Columbia have implemented one, according to the audit.

The audit revealed that 149 service provider organizations in Georgia spent federal funds, including four that spent more than $10 million. According to the audit, another 17 spent between $5 million and $10 million, while 49 spent between $1 million and $5 million.

Numbers from last year show that while Georgia saw its homeless population decrease by 45.6% between 2007 and 2022, it has increased by 4.4% since 2020. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development numbers revealed that 9.9 of every 10,000 people in the state were experiencing homelessness in 2022.

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