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City Council approves proposed West Savannah homeless shelter; must complete archaeological study

Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 6:45 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah City Council voted 5-4 to approve a proposed homeless shelter in West Savannah, but with a caveat.

An archaeological study must be done to prove that the land is not The Weeping Time property before the development can continue.

“If there was a thought of this would be the land of the Weeping Time, I could not support it,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

Historians say, the event was the single-largest sale of enslaved people in U.S. history. The debate over the shelter has centered-around that point.

It’s important to note. city records say the Weeping Time did not happen on that site, but a site just south of it.

However, Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier has raised concerns

“We walked door to door knocked on doors and the majority of people in this area does not want this for our community,” said Alderwoman Lanier.

Lanier says maps she has from the Georgia Historical Society show it is part of the property. WTOC has not independently verified Lanier’s claims.

A few people showed-up to protest the Salvation Army’s efforts again Thursday. And, quite a few more people were in the council chambers demanding that their voices be heard.

There was a big argument over whether those people could speak. Ultimately, the council allowed one person from each side 10 minutes to talk.

After Thursday’s vote, Major Paul Egan with the Salvation Army told WTOC in part, “The Salvation Army is very grateful that the City Council has approved the special use permit. It has been a joy to have many opportunities to let people know about the amazing, life-changing work of the Salvation Army and how much more we are going to be able to do to bless those in need with a new facility.”

Pastor Larry Gordon of Solomon Temple in West Savannah, who has been vocal about his opposition to the shelter, told WTOC in part, “We are on one hand disheartened and hurt. But we ask the mayor to, just like with the coronavirus, follow the experts, and that will prove that the land was a part of the Weeping Time site.”

The city manager did not provide a timeline on when the study would begin or when it would be finished, but says they want to get it done as quickly as possible.

The Salvation Army wants to build a multi-million-dollar transitional housing complex on the 12-acre plot off Augusta Avenue and I-516.

They are currently serving people on Montgomery Street, but say the new facility will allow them to house roughly twice as many people.

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