Public Life Reporting Amanda Cheeks

"That's what I'm telling myself now, because when I grew up I kind of shut all my feelings off, because of what was going on around me. Because I had too. I'm the oldest of four, so I was like the third parent, and then my parents go together. They got married because they had me. So, I grew up watching my parents learn how to like each other. The love was there, but they didn't like each other. My mom told me, 'If it wasn't for you I probably wouldn't have married your dad.' So I grew up watching them like each other, which was kind of difficult for me because now my perspective of love and affection is kind of off. So now, I've never been in a relationship before, so I just watch. I literally grew up watching people live their lives, but not living mine. So that's what I'm trying to do right now, and it's kind of scary, but I'm by myself. I just had to realize that being my myself is okay, which is why I come out here and sit."

- Rihanna Jackson, Communication major

BEFORE I GO

AUGUSTA, GA., Apr. 14 – He is called Skip by friends and family. Perhaps the nickname has been used ironically, as he, rather fittingly for a historian, comes from a line of Charles, including his two month old grandson, Charles V. Dr. Charles W. Clark III, the dean of Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Augusta University reminisced of his past and shared what he hopes to be his legacy, both professionally and personally when speaking about his upcoming retirement on June 30, 2017.

In 2012 Dr. Clark came to then named Augusta State University as Dean of Arts and Sciences. He was in his position for three days before the announcement came that the university would be merging with the health sciences university. This decision led to the college that Dr. Clark was new dean of to be split up. Dr. Clark said smirking, “My job description changed quite a bit between the time I was hired until, well, now.”

Never did Dr. Clark think he would be a dean when he was growing up but he has found his position to be very rewarding. While he misses teaching very much Dr. Clark is proud of his work as Dean. While he says his impact and influence is ”indirect it has had a major effect on faculty and students.” His role is in obtaining resources and opportunities so that faculty can do their jobs better and teach students better, which mean students learn better.

Dr. Clark says his greatest success in his position at this university has been establishing the “necessary” Pamplin Professional Impact Fund, which is available to faculty to present the results of their research at conferences and support research efforts.

Dr. Clark also shared his personal success with his family. Clearly taking pride in his three great kids and five grandchildren. In his office on a book case filled with historical witchcraft literature hung a simple wood plaque with the words “history is great” carved in it by his oldest son decades ago. This family artifact placed in his office perfectly illustrates Dr. Clark’s love for both his family and history.

Dr. Clark’s 30 years of research and study of history has taught him many lessons that he can and has applied to his life. The first lesson he mentioned was evident in his tone and demeanor throughout our conversation, which is tolerance. The other major lesson to learn, he says, “Is that there is always something more to learn. Intellectual curiosity has been something that has driven me for a long time, not just about history, but just about anything that I run across I want to know more about it. There isn’t enough time in the day for that, but now that I’m retiring maybe there will be more time for that.”

Homeless, Stranded, and Afraid of Deportation

Augusta, Ga. - An immigrant man whom married an American woman and solider found himself homeless and stranded in Augusta, Ga. in 2013 after his now ex-wife made him leave the apartment they shared. This immigrant man found himself living in the woods for slightly more than three months before he finally found a solution and made his way back home with the help of a former congressman’s staffers and interns.

Ulf Woida, a German native, left behind a security officer position at a military base in Mannheim, GE when he followed his wife to the United States. Woida and his now ex-wife had begun applying for a K-1 Fiancé Visa, and this required the former wife to accompany Woida to the filing office because she was considered the sponsor. However, Woida’s former wife did not accompany him before his temporary visa expired. This lapse in filing prevented Woida from obtaining employment and the financial burden on the former wife was believed to be a driving issue in their marriage, according to Woida.

Woida was an orphan, only knowing of a brother who also lived in Germany. When Woida was told to leave the apartment he shared with his former wife he had no money, no visa, no contact to anyone in Germany, and no friends or acquaintances locally. Knowing that he was illegally present in this country Woida said, “ I didn’t want to be deported because I wouldn’t be able to get my security job back, so I went to the [Richmond County] sheriff’s department and asked them if I’m going to be deported. They told me no, not unless I commit a serious crime like rob a liquor store or something.”

Woida was free to squat in the woods behind Burlington Coat Factory off of Augusta West Parkway without fear of being deported. He survived during a particularly heavy, and perhaps unusual, rainy season with the help of other fellow homeless men. Woida said one man had a spare tent that he let Woida sleep in. He also said one man shared food that he bought with EBT food stamps.

Being raised in Germany, Woida said he knew the Catholic Church was a great source of help for those in need, but in his situation the Catholic Social Services could not do more than give him some bus fare vouchers that he could use to get around to seek out help from other organizations. Woida used the bus fare vouchers for weeks but could not get any help from any organization. Shelters could not give him a bed because Richmond County shelters require a shelter clearance form from the Sherriff’s department, which provides a background check. Shelters also require I.D. and a Social Security number, which are also needed for the shelter clearance form. Mr. Woida did not have a US issued I.D. or Social Security number.

Lynda Barrs, Resource Development Coordinator for the C.S.R.A Economic Opportunity Authority Inc. says that one of the issues with helping immigrants without legal status is that most grant funding cannot be used for a non-citizen. If help is offered to a non-citizen then it would be on a special basis and “hush-hush.”

By early June Woida eventually was directed to former 12th district Congressman John Barrow’s Augusta office where another German native and student of then named Georgia Regents University was interning. Woida spoke well enough English that it seemed he had no trouble, yet in this emotional situation Woida said, “I felt so much relief when I could start talking in German and I felt like I was going to be okay.”

With the new republican administration committed to deportation it is curious how this situation could have ended if Mr. Woida was stranded now, during a time when cities and sites that consider themselves sanctuary are being threatened with de-funding and possible marshal law with the deployment of the U.S. Guard. According to Rev. Dr. Gaye W. Ortiz of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, there isn’t a sanctuary church in the state of Georgia to her knowledge. This means if Woida or an immigrant in his situation were to find him or herself homeless and stranded there is no sanctuary available to them, nor is there technically a shelter they can stay.

When speaking with a volunteer at the Garden City Mission, a homeless man named Michael from South Carolina, and Mr. Woida, the opinion that a homeless person will not go hungry in Augusta was echoed. When asked, many of the homeless men sitting outside of the Salvation Army shelter agreed. Michael, a 56 year-old homeless man from South Carolina, who did not give a last name, said that, “it is a good thing that people don’t have to waste time trying to look for food, because that is time they can go to the clinic or labor department or work a job like cutting grass or something. “

As far as other resources in Augusta that would be available to an immigrant person homeless and stranded there really aren’t any. The closest thing available is a non-profit organization called Casa de Esperanza, an outreach program managed by True North Church of North Augusta. The old paint-chipped building located in the middle of a dilapidated trailer park is the main office for the non-profit and owned by the church. The trailer park is home to the Hispanic community that the organization aims to help. The church’s website says, “The Gentry Hope Center (La Casa de Esperanza) is dedicated to providing resources and opportunities to low income and under-served individuals and families in Gentry Mobile Home Park to move towards self-sufficiency through building relationships, education, and training. According to the 2015 990 tax from filed by the national organization, Casa de Esperanza de Los Ninos, Inc., funding for this organization does not come from tax funded grants like HUD, Housing and Urban Development, but rather private foundations and endowments; therefore even if the persons they are helping does not have a legal status, Casa de Esperanza may provide help to the Latino community.

No residents of Gentry Mobile Home would speak about their circumstance. The church’s outreach minister also did not return any phone calls or emails for comment.

One of many similar trailers in Gentry Mobile Home Park.

As for Woida, he is not Hispanic and therefore this organization might not have been able to help him, but it is the closest thing to the help available if he had his situation now. Lynda Barrs said that there is talk of a low-barrier shelter being developed in the future, “but it is just in talking stage, it will be a while before Augusta gets that.” A low-barrier shelter is housing where a minimum number of expectations are placed on people who wish to live there. If Augusta would develop this type of shelter more people including undocumented immigrants, people with severe legal records, and addicts, who are prevented from staying at the current shelters, will have an opportunity for a safe place to access resources and sleep.

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