WMAZ has been reporting this week on where Macon's homeless can live and what can be done to help them.
On Tuesday, we told you about Mayor Robert Reichert's plan to remove the homeless and their tents and huts from woods along the Ocmulgee River. But where can they go next?
Former Mayor C. Jack Ellis says an abandoned building at the corner of Second and Hawthorne streets just needs light and heat and it's ready to go. But Mayor Reichert says it's not that simple.
“Well, we have a man sitting at 700 Poplar Street, who, in this Christmas season, is emulating old brother Grinch,” Ellis said about the current Mayor while at a press conference on Friday morning.
Church pastors were supposed to attend the press conference with Ellis, but Ellis stood alone when talking to media.
“I'm sorry he feels like I'm a Grinch, my job as chief executive officer and mayor of this community is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people that I can,” Reichert told WMAZ later in the day.
As his plan to remove the homeless near Ocmulgee River continues, Former Mayor Ellis says there's another solution right in downtown Macon.
He wants the County to turn the old Powers School into temporary or permanent housing. And, Ellis says he knows how to pay for it.
“The same people that pay for the upkeep of these prisons over here, the taxpayers. That's who will pay for it. We have a responsibility, we have an obligation to make sure we have-- we take care of the public safety and the welfare of our citizens,” Ellis told reporters.
The former mayor also said the building had been renovated and served as a transitional home for criminals.
But the County says that’s not entirely accurate. Spokesman Chris Floore says the building has been vacant since at least 2009, the copper stripped, the roof suffered a major leak, and they’re not even sure the boiler is working.
The vacant building sits near the Bibb County Jail and Law Enforcement Center. Floore says the former County government purchased the building in 2009.
Ellis says if we take care of our criminals with taxpayer dollars, why not the homeless? But, Reichert says it isn't that simple.
“As significant as those costs are... you can't put homeless in there without some supervision. Otherwise, you incur a liability cause one homeless person will beat up another homeless person and take their possessions. So there are all kind of ramifications,” Reichert told WMAZ after Ellis’ press conference.
Malinda Veal has lived in Macon for more than 30 years and says as a taxpayer she wouldn't mind.
“We're paying for people that kill people, and have murdered and did all types of bad stuff. So, why not pay for somebody that really needs it?” Veal said downtown.
However, she did express some concern over raising taxes to fund it, but said even with an increase she’d still support it.
Ellis nor Reichert had an estimate for how much it would cost to run the building as a shelter temporarily or full-time. The building has a tax value of $926,000, according to County records.
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