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Promising to help families: Homeless get helping hand from charity


Network of congregations join together



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Family Promise Executive Director Bill Hardison is preparing for homeless families to stay at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Dunwoody, one of a dozen congregations in North Fulton and DeKalb counties offering help to the homeless. JONATHAN COPSEY. (click for larger version)
February 06, 2013
NORTH FULTON, Ga. – In an effort to help those who have fallen into homelessness, a new charity has opened its doors in North Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Called Family Promise, Executive Director Bill Hardison has hit the ground running to provide shelter to those who need it.

Family Promise is part of a national network of religious congregations of all faiths working together to provide temporary housing for the homeless.

The congregations pledge to provide shelter to an individual or an entire family for one week at a time. This includes bedding and food. The family or individual arrives Sunday afternoon and spends the entire week at one church, going about their daily lives of school, work or looking for work. At the end of the week, they pack up and move to another church to spend the next week. The congregations rotate throughout the year to provide housing free of charge to the families for up to 30 days.

Hardison said the North Fulton-DeKalb branch has 13 congregations lined up and can hold either 14 people or four families at a time.

Each participant must pass drug and background checks.

"The intent is to bring families in who are working," Hardison said. "Maybe their hours were cut or they have medical bills to pay. With us, they can save their money enough to maybe pay rent for a month or put a down payment on a house."

It's all about breathing space, he said.

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JONATHAN COPSEY. (click for larger version)
A person working at minimum wage for 40 hours a week is still not be able to afford housing in the north metro area. A single parent would have to work 109 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment, he said. Minimum wage is $7.25 in Georgia.

"The Atlanta area is woefully inadequate in its supply of affordable housing," Hardison said.

By staying with Family Promise members, the working poor can save up enough money to make ends meet. Sometimes a month is enough to get back on their feet.

Those who are jobless will be helped either through Family Promise itself or through similar groups, such as North Fulton Community Charities, which already offer such help.

Family Promise has been a national program for 25 years and claims to have served nearly half a million people in that time. Eighty percent of those who go through them find permanent housing.

"It's been pretty darn successful," Hardison said. "We are hoping to have the same success."

With a background in finance and accounting, Hardison has lived in Alpharetta for 23 years. He became involved with North Fulton Community Charities as their accountant. Through them he was asked if he wanted to take the helm of this new project, which officially began Feb. 3 in North Fulton and DeKalb.

"God had a plan for me to get involved with this," he said and, now that the preparations are complete, it's only a matter of filling beds.

"Everybody is excited and ready to go."

For more on Family Promise and the congregations taking part, visit www.familypromisenfd.org.

list visuals View images.
The congregations involved in Family Promise North Fulton-Dekalb are:

Temple Sinai, Sandy Springs

Dunwoody United Methodist Church, Dunwoody

Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, Sandy Springs

St. Luke's Presbyterian Church, Dunwoody

Roswell United Methodist Church, Roswell

Northminster Presbyterian Church, Roswell

Temple Beth Tikvah, Roswell

Roswell Presbyterian Church, Roswell

Kingswood United Methodist Church, Dunwoody

Alpharetta Presbyterian Church, Alpharetta

St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, Atlanta

Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church, Atlanta

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