Local housing assistance programs
Where: 669 Main St., Gainesville
More info: 770-287-9700
Where: 979 Davis St., Gainesville
More info: 770-503-1366
Where: 881 Dorsey St., Gainesville
More info: 678-450-8270
Where: 681 Dorsey St., Gainesville
More info: 770-531-0135
Where: 851 Main St., Gainesville
More info: 678-978-1009
More info: 770-572-7945
Who: Women and children
Where: 2480 Martin Luther King Blvd., Gainesville
More info: 770-503-1181
Who: Victims of domestic violence
Crisis hotline: 770-536-5860
What: Provides emergency financial assistance
Where: 1 1st St., Gainesville
More info: 770-531-0144
Where: 946 Lanier Ave., Gainesville
More info: 770-535-0786
What: Ministry that works with future homeowners to build affordable housing
Where: 975 Chestnut St., Gainesville
Source: Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center
When Tony Rhodes planted a cross into the ground in a patch of woods behind the Tire Barn in Gainesville where he had camped, it was like a dagger stuck in the heart of his old life.
“I wanna be a part of society that’s doing what’s right," he said.
For the better part of 10 years, Rhodes said he slept fitfully outside as trains roared nearby and rats crawled over discarded remains of food.
Everyday he navigated conflicts and fights on the streets. He worked sporadically and endured bad relationships.
Now, the 40-year-old is the first of five local homeless men to be selected for a workforce training and transitional housing program based in Atlanta.
He packed up his stuff, got clean from drugs and alcohol and found a renewed spirit for life.
Georgia Works! is a privately funded program that has already provided case management for nearly 200 men who have graduated over the past few years. These homeless men are required to address any substance abuse problems, criminal recidivism, mental health or other issues they have, and they must pay a small rent and save money to stay in the yearlong program.
In return, they begin cleaning the streets of Atlanta for $7.40 an hour, then later find temporary employment with a supporting business.
Ryan Gerrald, who owns a local air conditioning repair business, was there the day Rhodes committed to changing his life.
“I do kinda relate to those guys in that area,” he said of the homeless. “It’s tough. It feels hopeless.”
Gerrald said he had to overcome a tough upbringing and addictions, so he knows what it’s like to feel down and out.
Now sober for more than a decade and a committed member of his church, Gerrald said he wanted to offer Rhodes encouragement as he takes this big step toward healing.
“It’s very difficult to come out of what he’s used to and try something new," Gerrald said. “(Rhodes) took that step.”
The Georgia Works! program has a “Wall of Fame” honoring previous graduates, and Rhodes said he wants to see his photo added to that wall one day.
Then he hopes to extend a hand to those like him who have endured the mean streets for so long.
“I want to help others,” Rhodes said.