DAHLONEGA — Homelessness in America has been described as a “revolving door” crisis. Many people exit homelessness quickly, but many more individuals and families become homeless every day. It is estimated that on any given day that there are 800,000 people who are homeless in the United States. Other statistics indicate that at least 2.3 million people experience homelessness at some time during an average year.
Dahlonega is not a large city, but not without its homeless citizens. The school system in Lumpkin County has reported there are 67 children in the county who are considered homeless – some may be sleeping in the homes of relatives or friends, but they have no place they can cite as “their” home.
Jimmy Faulkner, a layman at Dahlonega Baptist Church, explained, “There is another way of reporting the number of homeless people in the county. By our best accounting measures we have determined that in the first quarter of 2015 there are 46 families or individuals we encountered who can be considered unduplicated homeless units.
“The condition of the homeless in Dahlonega began to be a matter of concern for some of the men in the community. Some said there were no homeless and I agreed until I began to see them with my heart.
“For more than three decades the Cooper-Green Prayer Group had been meeting to pray for the community, but in November 2013 there were ten men in that prayer group who felt God was leading them to put their faith to work. From that group the North Georgia Interfaith Ministries, Inc. was organized.”
The primary concern the group decided to address was the homelessness in the community. Starting in early 2014 the newly-organized group began having community-wide meetings to make the people aware of the need they intended to address.
On Thanksgiving Eve Faulkner had a call from a couple who had been attending the meetings. They felt God was leading them to commit a matching gift of $25,000 to the ministry. For every dollar donated they promised to give another dollar up to $25,000.
The University of North Georgia donated four duplexes that had been used by faculty to assist in meeting the objective. One of Dahlonega’s benevolent citizens agreed to donate $60,000 to pay for the duplexes to be moved to some acreage outside the city that had also been given to the ministry.
“Some said there were no homeless
and I agreed until I began to see them with my heart.”
Jimmy Faulkner, layman
Dahlonega Baptist Church
Faulkner reported, “About the same time the Leadership Lumpkin Class of 2015 chose to support our ministry and sponsored a spaghetti supper that raised another $20,000.
“In February 2015 I approached the Branch Bank and Trust Company Foundation, where I serve as a corporate director of BB&T Financial Cooperation, and requested a donation of $100,000, which we received in April. To date the ministry has received gifts of $270,000 and the duplexes are ready to be occupied.”
Faulkner added, “The first group of ten men who heard the initial calling of God are all members of Dahlonega Baptist Church. Four of the current members of the Board of Directors are members of Dahlonega Baptist Church and one of the original board members, who served as the original treasurer, was the spouse of a retired Baptist pastor.”
The duplexes were structurally sound, but in need of refurbishing and repair, so a sufficient amount of work has been done to get the dwellings suitable for occupancy. The renovation has been accomplished through a joint effort of people from eight Baptist churches, one Methodist church, one Lutheran church, and one Catholic church. RefrigiWear, a Dahlonega company that manufactures insulated industrial work wear, closed down its company of 120 employees for one day and sent their workforce all over the city to assist non-profit ministries in various service projects – 35 were sent to paint the eight duplexes.
Bill Hutcheson, pastor of Dahlonega Baptist Church, remarked, “Our town and county is incredibly open to churches, businesses, schools, and civic organizations working together.”
Hutcheson urges his congregation to each give a dollar a week to benevolent causes and generally receives $40,000 to $50,000 a year to assist those in need.
Faulkner commented, “We decided that we didn’t want to provide some kind of band-aid solution or give the homeless families a quick fix, so we set a comprehensive plan in place.
“We will screen potential residents by requiring criminal background checks and drug tests. Those selected to become residents of these transitional homes will live there for 90 days with free rent, utilities, and food, much of which is being donated by the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association through Chestatee Ford and one of the local church’s food bank.”
During those 90 days the families will be receiving counseling, guidance, and help in securing jobs with the requirement that they save 30% of their income so they can save enough money to move into traditional housing after that first year.
Carl Gibson, his wife Penny, and daughter Angel, members of Dahlonega Baptist Church, will become residents of one of the duplexes to counsel and mentor the other seven families.
Gibson, a deacon and leader in the Summit Youth Ministry at DBC, stated, “I had problems with drugs and alcohol in my younger adult life, but God saved me and I am seeking to walk with Him. I want the people who live in these duplexes to know they are not alone; and they need to know that somebody cares.
“I intend to start a small Bible study group in the complex,” Gibson stated. “I have also asked the pastor if I can drive the church van to the complex on Saturday night in order to drive the residents to the church of their choice on Sunday morning. If they don’t have a strong preference I will happily take them to my church.
“A lot of good things will come out of this. I am privileged to be able to serve,” Gibson added.
For more information about how to help the homeless contact Jimmy Faulkner at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.lumpkincountyhomeless.com.