A single life event has the power to galvanize a person into action.
For Savannah native and college student Eric Bailey, an experience volunteering to feed the homeless ended up having a major impact on him. He decided to stage a walk for homelessness to help raise funds for the Savannah Union Mission, a local organization founded in 1936 to focus on the homeless population in Chatham County.
According to the latest available data, there are over 4,000 homeless people in Chatham County. Over 500 of them are chronically homeless with 47 percent being women and children.
The first Walk for Homelessness will take place on July 29 at Lake Meyer Community Park. The event is free; the Home Race 5k is $20 at eventbrite.com. Additional donations are welcomed.
Baily was inspired by a similar event that takes place in Los Angeles, where thousands of people walk/run each year to help raise funds for the homeless population.
“This was always something I wanted to do,” Baily said. “I think I watched an example of it on YouTube. I wanted to do something like that. It’s massive in L.A., tens of thousands of people. I wanted to swagger-jack the idea from them. I’ve always had a passion for helping. It’s like the homeless have become the lost souls of our society. People have just forgotten about them. They still have a beating heart and air flowing through their lungs, so they still have value. We treat them as though they’re just bugs.”
Before the 5k, 10 to 12 performers will play at the park, including Savannah’s Xuluprophet. For participants in the race, there will be prizes awarded for first-place finishers.
While Baily, a former basketball player for the former Armstrong State University, has never been homeless himself, this mission has become an important part of his humanity. He is hoping to raise $1,000 this year and grow the event in the coming years.
“I’ve never been homeless, personally,” Baily said. “I had a couple of really close friends that were very much at risk and maybe a week had no where to go. I had to help them. They had to find places to stay.
“We fail to realize how really common it is and how you just don’t know what a person's situation is. The friends that I have, you would think they had good ambition, good intelligence, they weren’t irresponsible, they were just dealt a bad hand."
Beyond helping with shelter, the Savannah Union Mission also works to end homelessness by helping provide a pathway to self-sufficiency and independent living, according to their website. They provide employment training and mental health counseling, as well. They are part of a number of local organizations that work the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless.