On October 21st I posted a blog about a United Way homeless outreach in Douglas County. On December 8th we conducted our second outreach. We met at the United Way building on Fairburn at 6:30 a.m., held a brief meeting and then headed out to a wooded area in Douglasville where homeless people are encamped. As before, we were welcomed by the people we met. This time we were waking them up to a temperature near freezing. As before, we found a community environment. This time we found some tents grouped around a Christmas tree. As before we had a great team of volunteers willing to brave the early morning. This time we had several new volunteers.
We were out to offer our Street to Home Program to homeless people in the area. The United Way Street to Home Program is a “housing first” model. We offer them a place to sleep that night. They participate in developing a plan to reach self-sufficiency with the aid of case workers and non-profits that get them identification, job and income assistance, transportation, help for mental illness and substance abuse and more. This differs dramatically from other assistance that they're offered. Some require a change in behavior first and then a place to sleep, and others offer food, clothing, tents, blankets and sleeping bags, but not direct help out of the woods.
Once they are in the transitional housing program, they are assisted by a network of professionals and services that have had incredible success in helping clients achieve self-sufficiency. Unfortunately we don't have adequate transitional housing to offer in Douglas County. We have to offer housing in Atlanta, and those housing units are often located in areas of the city where you would expect to find such facilities. It takes a great deal of trust, as well as a strong desire for positive change for people to volunteer to come on board.
We are beginning to build that trust. Two men came with us this morning. One is a seriously ill older gentleman, whom we met last October. The other is in his early 20's and clearly frightened by his situation in life. So far we have placed five men into transitional housing. The three previously placed are doing well. In my judgment, all five of these individuals seem to be fundamentally good people who deserve another chance in life. It's a great feeling to be able to help them get that chance.
“ United Way improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of the community to advance the common good. We focus on the building blocks of a good quality of life: education, income, health and ending homelessness. No other organization unites nonprofits, businesses, government, donors and volunteers to keep kids learning and in school, help people achieve financial stability, strengthen our health safety net, and end chronic homelessness.
“We invite you to join us. You can give, you can advocate and you can volunteer. That's what it means to LIVE UNITED.”