ALPHARETTA, Ga. — In normal times, Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb is an unusual operation.
The charity operates as a rotational shelter for homeless families. Rather than housing clients in its own building, the nonprofit relies on a network of North Fulton and DeKalb County congregations to share space at their facilities to house and feed clients. Families relocate from one facility to the next every seven days. The 16 congregations participating in the rotation include Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. An additional eight congregations provide money or donation drives to help support the program.
Usually, a host congregation will transform one of its classrooms to living quarters for the week, said Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb Executive Director Andrea Brantley.
Another unusual aspect of the nonprofit is how it accommodates clients. The charity allows families to remain together, regardless of gender.
“In most shelters, they separate families by sex,” she said. “If you’re a single mom and you have a 13 and 14 -year-old boy, they’re going to the other side of the shelter. This is a way for single moms and their boys to stay together.”
Family Promise will take in married couples. Most shelters in North Fulton do not take in adult men.
“We also take single dads,” Brantley said. “Last year, we had a single dad who was a veteran and he had a 16-year-old son.”
Under normal circumstances, families are accommodated for 90 days and provided with job and financial counseling. Every so often, a family is referred to a more permanent shelter when the time limit is over.
The coronavirus pandemic has made the operation even more unusual. It now provides a single shelter site provided at St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Dunwoody.
Families are staying put, and the time limit has been extended by another 90 days. The current families have been at St. Luke since April. The other congregations chip in to provide food, supplies, gift cards and overnight volunteers.
“St. Luke’s was nice enough to offer their space to us,” Brantley said. “I am extremely lucky to have the volunteers that we have at each congregation. They have made it very easy.”
The nonprofit made a video for volunteers providing them with the layout of the church, where they were to sleep, where they could eat and other information about helping the families staying in their own quarters at the facility.
Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb is a small operation and relies solely on volunteers and donations. It does not receive government funding.
Brantley said she has always been grateful to the generosity of the community, and it has made a difference.
“We’re currently serving a family of a mother with two high-school-aged girls and a young adult son,” she said. “They were living in their car when they came to us.”
Since receiving food and shelter at St. Luke, Brantley said, the young man was able to get an internship during the pandemic that has now turned into a job.
“He has been able to do the job fully from St. Luke’s, and I’m not sure that would’ve ever happened if he were living in his car right now,” she said. “The smile I see on this kid’s face when I walk in in the morning… He’s got a job, and he’s in the library and he’s working, it just makes me feel really good.”
Not only that, but all three moms staying at the church have found employment during the pandemic. The idea now, Brantley said, is for the three to begin saving to clear their debts and find their own place to live with their families.
Brantley said Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb needs donations now more than ever. She said the charity needs money, gift cards for groceries, restaurants, gas and other items.
More information about donations and volunteering can be found on the organization’s website, familypromisenfd.org.