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Homeless program in Forsyth County closing in on goals

FORSYTH COUNTY — A local nonprofit whose goal is to provide support and a sustainability program to children and families suffering from homelessness has everything it needs to open its doors, save for a few more churches to commit.

Family Promise of Forsyth County has reached all but one goal needed to become an active program, though it got closer during its first public meeting of the year Thursday night.

Organizers have letters of commitment from 10 churches throughout the community. They need three more to be able to rotate weekly in playing host to 14 individuals who are part of homeless families.

At last count, there were 482 Forsyth County students who qualify as homeless under federal regulations. That means they and their families sleep either in a hotel, their vehicle, with friends or relatives or on the street.

That number does not include siblings outside the kindergarten-12thgrade range or parents, said Kim Bolivar, the school system’s homeless education liaison.

Bolivar, new to the role, has been an educator in Forsyth County for 10 years, most recently in the English as a second language department.

“My goal in this role is to help end the cycle,” she said. “To help families and connect them with resources.”

Rates at the county’s two long-term hotels run about $250 a week, she said.

“So once families turn to that as an option because others have closed to them, it’s hard to get out of that cycle,” Bolivar said. “They’re spending a lot on resources.

“Often their transportation will break down and they have to decide whether to spend money on fixing it.”

Bolivar said most American families are about six months away from homelessness if they stop receiving an income.

Family Promise has shown success nationwide, including as close as Gwinnett County and the north Fulton area.

“It is appalling to see the conditions these families are living in,” said Jerry Dupree, interim chairman of the nonprofit. “These are good families that are working hard trying to make it, and they just need some help in getting there.”

The group recently received a commitment that Freedom Tabernacle will provide a space to be used as a day center, where parents and young children will go during school hours to receive day care, workforce development and financial planning classes.

The nonprofit also passed its goal of collecting $50,000 it needed to begin operations.

However, that is only the baseline, said Ashley O’Shields, a spokeswoman for Family Promise.

“We need $125,000 or more per year for operating costs. Therefore, ongoing donations will be critical for Family Promise to succeed,” she said.

In November, the group held a bed race and festival, during which teams raced mattresses on wheels before donating them. It raised $26,000.

The group’s next move will be to hold an open house at the Freedom House, the day center at Freedom Tabernacle. The event is set for 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 6.