Is homelessness a problem here?
At last count, there are 299 students enrolled in Forsyth County Schools who meet the federal definition of homelessness, which means they may sleep:
• In a hotel or motel
• In a vehicle
• In a tent or on the street
• On someone else’s couch or residence, including non-immediate family members
How to get help
• If you find yourself homless and have children in the Forsyth County public schools, contact your child’s school social worker
• Once Family Promise has received the referral, wait for a call. They will conduct an initial interview by phone to determine whether or not to move forward
• If the process moves forward, the organization will have an in-person interview. Parents, not children, are interviewed
• Based on availability and the in-person interview, as well as Family Promise’s vetting process, the organization will determine whether or not a family will be selected to participate
• If selected, further details will come from the organization
FORSYTH COUNTY -- After nearly two years of planning, fundraising and securing support from the community, Family Promise of Forsyth County is ready to open its doors and begin aiding homeless families.
Beginning Sunday, Oct. 2, the organization will serve four families — their maximum person capacity is 14 — though they hope to add more families down the road.
A nonprofit, Family Promise is an offshoot of the national faith-based organization dedicated to ending family homelessness.
Although the organization is nondenominational, 13 churches are signed on to house participating families for a week at a time on a rotating basis. Participants are served meals at the host church, which are prepared and served by volunteers.
Cumming First United Methodist Church is scheduled to house the first families from Oct. 2-8, who will then be moved to the next host church. The process continues for as long as families remain in the program.
Thanks to donations from Cumming’s Elite Roofing and Restoration and the Sawnee Woman’s Club, Family Promise was able to secure the last item necessary to operate: a 14-passenger van that will be used to transport families from the day center to school, work and the churches.
The day center is currently located at The Place of Forsyth, but Jacob Granados, executive director of Family Promise, said he hopes the location is temporary.
“We’re looking for a place of our own that has showers, laundry and the capability for [participants] to be placed in,” he said.
The organization originally had hoped to use Freedom Tabernacle as the day center, which is located between Exits 16 and 17 on Ga. 400 and is one of the host churches.
To get the building to pass fire code, Family Promise would have had to make a large investment they weren’t prepared for, according to Granados.
Granados said there wasn’t any guarantee that once the building had been modified that it wouldn’t need more work in the future.
Now, participating parents and children not in school will spend their days at The Place, where the adults must take classes for the program, including cooking, career building, job training and a forklift instruction and certification class.
They must also actively seek work through the resources available at The Place.
School-age children will be transported to their current school; despite the host church or day center’s location, the students will remain at the school in which they are currently enrolled to minimize disruption in their already stressful lives.
The homeless families Family Promise works with are referred to the organization by any number of agencies, such as the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and The Place, among others.
“We receive the referral and then go through the families and vet them out, based on who needs it the most, and also who we feel is motivated enough to do the program,” Granados said. “This program isn’t an easy ‘come to us, you’ll get free housing.’ There’s going to be some liberties taken away that people may not want to [have taken.]
“There are going to be boundaries in place so people can save money; people will have to utilize the resources we’re giving them and abide by the rules.”
Some of those rules pertain to saving money. Granados said there’s really no need for families to go out to eat, given they’re provided with meals by the host churches, and no need to spend money on gas because Family Promise has a van.
Families must also maintain a curfew and be respectful at the churches, Granados said, which can become problematic for those not used to such rules.
That is why families are evaluated after 30 days to ensure the program is still a good fit.
“At the end of 30 days, families have to look back and say, ‘this is what I’ve accomplished, this is what I’ve done but I feel like I could use another 30 days,’” Granados said. “It’s holding them accountable to the process, so if they’re not working and trying, then at 30 days, we say ‘I’m sorry, but you haven’t done what we’ve asked you to, why should we [help you] again?’”
While some may consider this a “tough love” approach, Granados said given the small number of families the program can reach at one time, it’s important to have motivated parents who are working towards success.
The hard limit on how long a family can participate in the program is 90 days.
Despite Family Promise’s capacity restraints, Granados said he and his team are looking forward to starting the program.
For more information, visit FamilyPromiseOfForsythCounty.org.