ATLANTA — The novel coronavirus pandemic has altered so much of daily life. But the ensuing coronavirus crisis is also wreaking havoc on an often overlooked social problem: situational homelessness.
To address this growing problem, Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb works with local congregations to house up to four families at a time. But even as the coronavirus crisis starts to subside, more people could find themselves situationally homeless.
Andrea Brantley, executive director of Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb said “I do see the homeless situation getting worse because of COVID-19. Many families in our area don’t have safety nets and weeks of lost of income means they will not have enough to make ends meet.”
So here’s Brantley’s take about homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how her organization has responded and how the public can join the fight.
Is situational homelessness always visible?
Homelessness is not always visible. As a result, it’s easy for many of us to forget it’s a problem. A lot of us don’t realize that there’s homeless in our communities. People have a perception of what homelessness looks like and which communities it is in, or not in. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
For many families, situational homelessness looks like sleeping in their car or living out of a motel after they’ve lost their jobs. Or when they’ve had an expensive car repair and now can’t afford to pay rent. It’s families within every community that have fallen behind.
Are there different types of homelessness?
The families coming to Family Promise tend to be families that have never experienced homelessness before. They are families who experienced an event or situation that has directly led to their being homeless. For families in the Family Promise program, these situations range from being laid off, to losing child support, to an expensive car repair, or to a major illness. These families get behind on their bills, leading to the loss of their permanent housing. They might sleep on a friend’s couch or move into an extended stay hotel. But they are, in fact, homeless.
Will the coronavirus crisis impact situational homelessness?
Unfortunately, I do see the homeless situation getting worse because of COVID-19. Sometimes people get so bogged down with credit card bills, hospital bills, car payments and rent they finally get to a point where they have to start making difficult choices. For people living paycheck to paycheck, it doesn’t take much for them to fall behind, and the economic downturn brought on by COVID-19 may force many people to that point. I think we’re going to see more people struggling to pay their rent. Sadly, many will become homeless.
Has COVID-19 slowed Family Promise’s mission?
We haven’t missed a beat. We continue to empower our families, lift them up and connect them with resources. And we continue to do our job the best we can while making adjustments to meet new the safety requirements.
How can people get involved?
We’ve had tremendous success to date. We’re blessed that 25 congregations in metro Atlanta have helped us get more than 80 families into permanent housing. That’s 178 children and 85 adults, mostly single mothers, who now have a place to call home. We are always looking for congregations of all faiths in the North Fulton/DeKalb area to join us in our mission. The more partners we have, the more families we can help, and the bigger the impact we all make together in our community.
We encourage everyone interested in making a difference in this community to follow us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter! Partnerships come in many different shapes and forms. We’re continually looking for new, creative ways we can work with members of the community to raise awareness about situational homelessness.
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— Headline image: Image courtesy of Family Promise of North Fulton/DeKalb, Georgia.