Family Promise opens church doors to homeless families

CONYERS — A homeless family of five had a warm — and heart-warming — place to call home recently as the first family to be hosted by Family Promise of NewRock.

Family Promise of NewRock, which is a local chapter of a national organization with 171 affiliates, is dedicated to providing temporary shelter to homeless families while guiding them toward gaining housing stability.

Local director Erin White said families who receive assistance through Family Promise will spend their days at Phoenix Pass, a transitional housing facility at the Light House Village in Conyers. Their nights will be spent as the guests of one of several churches in the Rockdale/Newton area that have agreed to participate in the program. These churches have modified Sunday school rooms or fellowship halls to serve as bedrooms, and each church will have two members who serve as overnight hosts. The families will spend a week with each congregation before moving on to another church, White explained. Families can stay in the program for up to 60 days.

During their time with Family Promise, White said she and a part-time caseworker will work with them to set weekly goals to help them move toward housing stability. Unlike other shelters any funds that the family is receiving -- either through government assistance or employment -- do not have to go toward their housing. Instead, White said the money will be saved in a personal bank account for the family's future housing needs.

White said Family Promise takes referrals from a variety of sources, including the churches that are members of the organization.

"The people that we serve are going to come to us as referrals from various sources -- the school system, DFCS," White said. "We also will receive referrals through Rockdale Emergency Relief, and Rockdale has what is called a Hope Coalition, that is a collaboration of 15 different organizations around the county that want to reduce homelessness."

White said the Hope Coalition works through a representative at Rockdale Emergency Relief.

White said Family Promise works only with families -- although the makeup of the family can be a single mom with kids, a single dad with children, an intact family or others. Program participation is limited to 14 individuals at a time, which would be three to five families at the most, White said.

Participants in Family Promise must also be screened and pass a background check, White said.

Family Promise is a drug-, alcohol- and weapons-free shelter, White said. Participants must have no active domestic violence issues or untreated mental health issues, she said.

Family Promise has a wish list for items that will be used by the families as they spend their days in the day center at Phoenix Pass. The list includes: Size AA and D batteries, twin sheet sets, kitchen towels, laundry baskets, HE laundry detergent, dryer sheets, an iron and ironing board, refrigerator, microwave, dinner plates (eight), cups (eight), flatware (service for 14), paper goods, cleaning supplies, school supplies, vacuum cleaner, Futon, bean bag chairs, toys and games and toiletries.

Churches participating in Family Promise include: Epiphany Lutheran Church in Conyers, St. Pius Catholic Church in Conyers, Smyrna Presbyterian Church in Conyers, Life Church in Conyers, Conyers First United Methodist Church, Rockdale Baptist Church, Rockdale Alliance Church, Allen Memorial Methodist Church in Oxford, Milstead Baptist Church, Conyers First Baptist Church and Trinity Baptist Church. Grace United Methodist of Covington is a support congregation, working with Allen Memorial Church.