Inspired by her parents’ efforts in Dalton, Lindsey McCamy sought to start a program geared to helping the homeless in Hall County.
“God just put it on my heart that this is a ministry ... Gainesville could benefit from,” she said. “With the economy, there are a lot of people who just don’t have jobs and are just one paycheck away from being (homeless).”
McCamy left her work as a landscape architect to become director of Family Promise of Hall County, one of about 170 affiliates in a national organization. “I have no background in any of this,” she said.
The program, set to launch May 20, calls for housing and meals provided at area churches and counseling services, budgeting classes and other services taking place at an established “day center.”
The program’s website declares: “Our mission is to help put an end to homelessness one family at a time.”
McCamy and Dawn Wood, both members of Gainesville First United Methodist Church, approached each other over a year ago about starting such a program.
“One day, I was thinking about it and that we have so much space in our church, why don’t we do something to take care of homeless people?” said Wood, who heads the Family Promise board of directors. “I had been really praying about something that would be a good service and ... a good spot for me to volunteer.
“When Lindsey starting talking about (Family Promise), I thought that this was something I could really embrace. The more I’ve gotten involved in it, the bigger the heart I have for it.”
The program, which requires 13 churches to provide basic needs (12 are lined up so far), will work with no more than 14 homeless families, referred by other programs, at a time.
The key criteria is that there must be at least one child in each homeless family.
While services are being administered, children will stay put at their current school.
“There’s a statistic that says if a child moves more than three times in a school year, they only have a 17 percent chance of graduating from high school,” McCamy said.
Families move from church to the church through the program, which will require about 30 to 50 volunteers per week, McCamy said.
A van driver will pick them up at the church and take them to the day center at the corner of Lanier and Juanita avenues, behind Pizza Hut restaurant off Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville.
Overall, “the goal to the program is to get them out and on their feet, and when they leave, we will have saved their money if they have gotten a job and be able to pay the first month’s rent and turn on utilities,” McCamy said.
Families will be allowed to stay up to 90 days.
“If, at the end of 90 days, they are meeting their goals and trying, we’re not going to kick them out,” McCamy said.
Rev. Ruth Walker Demby, associate pastor of missions and outreach at First Baptist Church on Green Street in Gainesville, recalled McCamy and Wood sharing their vision of the ministry.
“I am so concerned that we help people in significant ways, respect their dignity and equip them to find ways of sustaining themselves and their families,” Demby said. “This is what attracted me to Family Promise.”
She said the program has a “proven track record” nationally of helping families through job readiness, interview skills, financial stability and other needs.
“It allows us to see what it really takes for families and individuals to get on their feet and get employment, housing and all those things that we often take for granted,” Demby said.
Family Promise is sponsoring a fundraiser, “Car City,” at First Baptist.
People will sleep in their car overnight, as a way to raise awareness about homeless, while raising money through pledges.
The event, featuring food and live music, is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. April 27 and end at 7 a.m. April 28.
Overall, the work to get the program off the ground has been rewarding and exhausting for McCamy and Wood, they said.
“It’s been bit of a roller coaster ride, sometimes hurry up and wait,” Wood said. “I’m just thankful it has progressed as quickly as it has and that so many congregations and individuals in our community have embraced this.”
McCamy said: “It’s been a God thing because it just took off. It’s not anything one person can do.”