FORSYTH COUNTY -- A newly formed nonprofit that runs a workforce development and sustainability program for homeless families in Forsyth County is one step closer to opening its doors.
Family Promise of Forsyth County named Jacob Granados as its first program director.
Granados will be in charge of coordinating and leading the day center and any staff that will eventually be hired and will receive referrals for participants and network with social agencies.
He said he learned about the nonprofit, which operates in 40 states and as close as Gwinnett and Hall counties and the north Fulton area, through his work at Salvation Army in Alabama.
“There was a need not being addressed,” Granados said. “Baldwin County is probably the number-two wealthiest county in the state, and there was a sense that we don’t have homeless people and families. Family Promise was there addressing the issue when, in fact, there was one.”
Families participating in the program are housed at one of 13 churches for a week at a time on a rotating basis. Churches provide meals and a bed.
During the day, students are taken to school from the day center — Freedom Tabernacle offered a space on their property — where young children attend day care and parents receive educational, workforce development and financial planning classes.
The goal is to give parents time where they don’t have to worry about where they will put their children to sleep or what they will eat so they can focus on job searching and learning the tools to become self-sustainable.
Granados said more than 600 Forsyth County students were registered as homeless during the most recent school year according to federal standards.
“In December I think it was around 471 and it got to 635 by the end of the school year,” he said. “My first task is to educate the community that there is, in fact, a need here. It may not look like the traditional sense of a man on the side of the road, but there are families and children who are not living life in a secure and consistent home setting.”
Homelessness is defined as living in a hotel, a vehicle with friends or on the street.
The more-than-600 number does not include siblings too old or too young to go to public school or their parents.
Granados said there is a proven correlation between low-income families who have to worry day-to-day about housing and food and their children not receiving the life skills they need to do well in life.
“It’s not just reading and math, but basic life skills,” he said. “With both parents working, the stresses with that, they don’t have time to teach kids how to cope with emotional problems. Many times [parents] were never taught that themselves. An inconsistent setting is not healthy [for kids], and they end up with their own set of unhealthy habits, and it makes life harder for them in the long run.”
He said the only remaining piece needed for Family Promise to start serving families is a 15-person van the group needs to transport families from the day center to churches.
“We’re gearing up to open up the first week of September,” he said. “We can’t do that until we have a van. Someone can donate a van, or maybe they know someone at a car dealership who could partner with us or they can make a monetary donation.”
The next fundraiser for the nonprofit is a Sounds of Sawnee concert on Sunday, July 24 at 5 p.m. at Midway United Methodist Church. The concert costs $10.
Granados has lived in Forsyth for about a year with his wife, Gretchen, their two children, 5-year-old Ethan Jude and 3-year-old Hannah Kate, and their new puppy, Hans.
For more information on Family Promise or to donate, visit familypromiseofforsythcounty.org.