By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published July 18, 2013
MARIETTA—Faith communities in Cobb County are responding to a need for shelters for families who are homeless.
Advocates say they are spurred to action by learning that an estimated 1,400 school-age children in the county don’t have shelter and that one of the largest shelters in Marietta nightly has to turn people away.
Marietta’s Transfiguration Church endorsed the Family Promise initiative in Cobb County, and members are waiting for the program to begin.
“They were for it. They wanted to know how they can help. We’ve had good response for our parish outreach. This parish has been very good in responding to new initiatives,” said Marilyn MacInnis, the parish administrator.
Family Promise relies on houses of worship to open their doors to homeless families. Each congregation agrees to host families for a week four times over the course of a year. The organizers work with four families at a time, hosting a maximum of 14 people. The faith communities provide a place to sleep. The families arrive around 5:30 p.m. and have a prepared dinner. The next morning, they have a light breakfast and then a van transports them to a day center where they get help to move out of their crisis. Children can attend school.
Transfiguration Church has some 60 different ministries, so parish leaders will call on many of them to volunteer.
Family Promise has been active for the last few years in Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton counties. The parishes of St. Oliver Plunkett Church, Snellville, and St. Pius X Church, Conyers, have opened their doors for these families. In each program, local families are served.
In Cobb County, the organization has a few milestones to hit before it is ready to launch.
Supporters in 2012 came together to start this ministry. Family Promise must have at least 13 congregations supporting the mission before a new group can start. An organizer said 11 churches have signed on, and another four seem favorable to the idea. The effort started with the board of directors in July 2012.
“Our program keeps the families together. It’s a wonderful program. It is the right thing to do,” said Hale Sanders, secretary of the board.
“It was a commitment. I needed to give back to the community,” said Sanders, a member of St. Catherine Episcopal Church, also a member of the Cobb network.
Another goal is to have around $55,000 in the bank before proceeding. The Cobb organization is about halfway there now and expects to have around $40,000 by August.
The search is underway for a day center where families can receive services to help them move into permanent housing, look for a job or receive other necessary help. Sanders said the organization is working with Cobb County to find a center.
“Those are things we really have to nail down. I don’t think there’s any doubt by year’s end” the program will be operating, said Sanders.