An Oconee County church is demonstrating how to love thy neighbor by assisting families who are experiencing homelessness.
As part of its partnership with the nonprofit Family Promise, Athens Church of Christ on Mars Hill Road is giving shelter to three families. Family Promise provides people not just with food and shelter but also daycare, transportation, case management and other resources. The local chapter is part of a national network that encompasses more than 200 affiliates in 43 states.
“Our goal is to reduce a family’s expenses so that the family can save as much of their income as possible and have first month’s rent, deposit and some extra savings when they leave our program,” said Athens Church of Christ volunteer coordinator and Family Promise of Athens Vice President Rachele Gibson.
The shelter and the other resources are provided through a coalition of local churches in the Athens-Oconee area. Congregational facilities, like those of Athens Church of Christ, are revamped into living spaces capable of holding up to three families for a week at a time, and those families rotate between host congregations.
Gibson explained that Family Promise’s use of church buildings, trained volunteers and in-kind donations of food allow the organization to operate at about a third of the budget required by similar programs geared toward addressing homelessness.
Host congregation volunteers assist with duties such as meal preparation, providing hospitality and driving the FPA van to transport families.
“The Family Promise model is a great opportunity for lots of people to have little jobs and work together to surround our guest families with love, support, kindness, encouragement and nourishment,” Gibson said.
Her husband, Steve, has served as a day and night host.
“More volunteers from other faith groups signed up during the day and spent the night,” Rachele said. “We found that once a volunteer spent time in the static site, any of their fears or reservations were quickly alleviated and they would return again and again.”
For more on this story, see the July 23 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.