It's no secret there's a housing crisis in America, and Metro Atlanta is not immune.
In fact, Cobb County, Georgia ranks #1 in the nation for the least amount of affordable housing available to low-income families.
We're not a shelter, and that's a good thing
We believe the best model to help a family out of homelessness combines individual, esteem-boosting housing with long-term, wraparound case management services. In short:
A homeless individual or household's first and primary need is to obtain stable housing, and other issues that may affect the household can and should be addressed once housing is obtained.
This model is backwards to some traditional programs, which utilize congregate shelters and ask that people prove their "housing readiness" – usually through job placement, drug remediation programs and the like – before being moved into a housing situation.
While that approach undoubtedly works for some, it is not where CFR's heart is. Our housing program works exclusively with families with minor children, and programs that utilize congregate shelters often see families broken up across gender and age lines. A single mother, for instance, can be separated from her 12 and 14-year old boys as they are made to sleep in the men's shelter, sometimes at a completely different location from the women's.
We do not believe separation and group shelter to be the way toward family healing and self-sufficiency. Instead, we know that many families are already "housing ready", and that by extending that trust and providing the wraparound supportive services, we are bolstering self-confidence and creating self-sufficiency.
As we work exclusively with families with children, it is also of the highest priority to us that all children in our programs have a safe place to eat, sleep and study. School and social performance is measurably improved with safe, individual housing, and we know that helping our clients' children stay in school is the best chance for a family to maintain self-sufficiency throughout the next generation.
You can't be what you can't see
We believe that clients in congregate shelters have a harder time visualizing themselves in a permanent, self-sustaining housing situation, and therefore have a harder time working to make it happen. Most shelters require that their clients vacate the premises during the day, ostensibly to go to work or search for employment, and return by a certain hour in the late afternoon or evening. For so many, however, lifting themselves out of homelessness is made so much harder by these hourly restrictions. Some may find employment, but be unable to go to work if their shift extends later into the evenings. If they go to work, they risk losing a place at the shelter. If they prioritize a safe place to sleep, they risk losing their job.
By providing a safe, individual apartment with no curfew restrictions, we are creating space for growth to happen. the impetus to work to stay in that apartment, and the self-confidence necessary for our families to believe that they are worthy of that housing. Participation in case management meetings, budgeting sessions and life skills classes are therefore not a means to an end, but an invested education in a new identity.
Our services don't stop once a key is handed over. Instead, our housing program is intrinsically tied to our case management and supportive services. We offer GED classes and career search assistance, job readiness and interview coaching, as well as financial literacy and life skills courses. And while congregate shelter programs may ask that clients attend these budgeting and life readiness classes before being placed in housing, we instead provide those services after our families have moved in.
We serve fewer people than congregate shelters, but our services go deeper, and thanks to our tireless case managers and the programs they maintain, we have a higher track record of effecting a lasting, lifelong change.
The Center for Family Resources is a proud community partner of the following organizations: