The Gainesville branch of Action Ministries is exiting a state-funded program that provides housing assistance to low-income residents with HIV/AIDS.
That leaves the entire Northeast Georgia service area in need of a new provider for the Housing Opportunities for Persons With Aids program, commonly known as HOPWA. But a replacement is expected.
The state currently funds nine regional HOPWA programs through the Department of Community Affairs, with Action Ministries serving the Northeast Georgia region.
Kelly Henderson, chief executive officer of Action Ministries, which is headquartered in Atlanta, said the decision was made in keeping with the ministry’s aim to refocus its mission on hunger relief, housing assistance for homeless individuals and low-income families, and educational programs for children in need in 50 counties across Georgia.
Housing assistance, in particular, is “still a huge part of what we do,” Henderson said, adding that Action Ministries provides permanent housing support for more than a thousand families annually.
Henderson said that about three years ago the nonprofit put some “internal dialogue” into place to determine the value of its services: “Does this align with our mission? Can we be the best at this? Is it financially sustainable, whatever it is we’re doing?
“We’re essentially saying … it’s time for us to help you transition this program to another provider,” Henderson said.
Davia Rose Lassiter, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs, told The Times in an email that it is “not unusual for agencies to add or drop programs as their boards of directors and/or agency mission changes.” He said Action was serving 31 people in the HOPWA program as of the last annual report.
Henderson said he hoped a new provider with more expertise, training and knowledge of “vulnerable health populations” would step in to coordinate the HOPWA program for Northeast Georgia.
“This is the one program that’s different than everything else we do,” he added. “We can never be the best at that if it’s always going to be a stranger in our mix.”
Henderson added that Action Ministries is working closely with the state to make the transition between providers as seamless as possible.
“We don’t want a hard stop,” he said.
According to Lassiter, applications from other social service agencies interested in operating the HOPWA program in Northeast Georgia have been submitted.
“DCA staff is in the process of evaluating all HOPWA applications and the funding announcement … will be made around July 1, 2019,” Lassiter said.
Meanwhile, Action Ministries’ current HOPWA grant does not expire until Sept. 30.
“A new project sponsor or project sponsors will be in place on October 1, 2019, so there will be no gap in HOPWA services in Hall County,” Lassiter said.