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Bands step up to fight homelessness

Musicians to perform benefit concert for Family Promise house

POSTED: August 14, 2014 1:00 a.m.
/Get Out file photo

The Railroad Avenue house requires an estimated $110,000 in repairs, labor and materials before it is livable. Flowery Branch United Methodist Church wants to renovate the home as a place for Family Promise of Hall County.

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Family Promise of Hall County will crank up the tunes this Saturday to help make the dreams of many local homeless families come true.

Stepping Out For Stepping Stones, a concert featuring musicians from the Cross Worship Center in Powder Springs and other area worship bands, will benefit the renovation of a house recently donated to Family Promise. The family friendly event will be from 4-8 p.m. Aug. 16 at The Green Space, 5264 Railroad Ave., in Flowery Branch. It will be broadcast live by David and LeAnna Stein of the Rise and Stein Morning Show on Victory 91.5.

The home, which was donated by Flowery Branch United Methodist Church and is on its property off Railroad Avenue, will be used as transitional housing by the families of Family Promise of Hall County. Transitional housing, as opposed to permanent housing, gives the families a temporary place to stay while they learn other life skills or save for the costs of a permanent residence.

A lack of affordable, transitional housing for those seeking to escape homelessness in the Hall County area is the greatest threat to families becoming self-sufficient, said Amanda Ayers, a case manager at Family Promise of Hall County.

“The typical family that we have in our program is a single-parent family making less than $12 an hour, and they are incapable of affording typical rent on apartments in Gainesville,” Ayers said. “You look to government housing, income-based rent, but the waiting list for the majority of that is four to six months. In a 90-day program, that is just impossible.”

FPHC, which accepts any homeless person with a child, offers job, financial and psychological counseling to its clients. Many adults graduate from the program with a bevy of new life skills for the first time.

An overwhelming majority of the families who graduate from Family Promise do secure employment, but the lack of affordable housing can cause them to only become homeless again. Rising costs of living have made affordable housing more and more difficult to find. Many of the families also don’t have cars or properly working vehicles, meaning they need to live within walking distance of work.

Ed Dickens, senior pastor of Flowery Branch UMC, first welcomed the families of FPHC into his church when the Hall County branch of the organization opened in 2012. The church was just as affected by the families’ presence as the families were affected by them.

“It’s been huge for our congregation, because we’re beginning to look outside ourselves and look at the need and discover that homeless people are just like us,” Dickens said. “They missed a couple of paychecks and for whatever reason they had to leave their home. There are a lot of us who are kind of that way.”

The experience with the families of FPHC motivated Flowery Branch UMC to donate the home, which was first purchased and donated to them by a parishioner.

Families who will be placed in the two-bedroom home will be fully vetted by Family Promise and will be required to abide by its guidelines. The families, however, will have a greater degree of independence in the Flowery Branch location. Ayers hopes it will encourage them to become even more self-sufficient.

“It’s an opportunity to take another step up and out of their situation,” Ayers said.

The Railroad Avenue house is estimated to require $110,000 in repairs, labor and materials before it is livable, a hurdle Dickens and Ayers hope the concert will help them begin to tackle.

“We’d like to gather at least $50,000 or $60,000 before we get started to ensure we can keep it going,” Dickens said. “We’re hoping to get volunteer labor, volunteer donations, so we don’t have to gather a whole $110,000.”

Whatever the cost, Dickens sees the goal of the Stepping Out for Stepping Stones Concert as an integral part of his faith.

“Christ calls us to bring the gospel to life, to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, house the homeless, care for the sick, welcome the stranger,” Dickens said. “To be able to put (these families) in a safe, clean, affordable place, it’s hugely important. It puts the Gospel to life. It brings us to helping others out, and I think that’s what God calls us to do.”



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