Decatur Cooperative Ministry Executive Director Marlene White said the face of homelessness is not what one might expect.
She said employed people with college degrees are included among those who have turned to the nonprofit’s shelters recently. She mentioned a woman with a job as a medical assistant and another with a bachelors degree who works at a local nonprofit.
“The challenge is that families that find themselves without housing in this economy have such a difficult time because there are challenges to getting a living wage and there are challenges to identifying affordable housing,” said White, whose organization works to alleviate the problems of homelessness in the City of Decatur and in DeKalb County.
DCM, which was founded in 1969 and operates as a consortium of more than 35 congregations encompassing 14 different denominations, offers a multitude of services and programs. As has been the case since its inception in 2010, DCM is the beneficiary of the Amplify Decatur Concert Series. Last year, Amplify Decatur raised $30,000 for DCM and the hope is to better that amount in 2017.
In a given year, DCM supports about one thousand people, White said. It runs four food cooperatives (two of them are housed in Decatur churches) and has four different programs that it operates.
- The Family House Transitional Program provides housing and support services to move families from homelessness to self-reliance in six months.
- Another program, Hagar’s House Emergency Shelter and Assessment Center, helps victims of domestic violence and their children, providing at least 30 nights of short-term housing.
- A program aimed at helping to prevent homeless is called “Project Take Charge.” It provides emergency assistance (in the form of rent/mortgage, utilities and food along with financial education) to those in danger of eviction, foreclosure or disconnection of utility service.
- Via its “End Veteran Homelessness” program, DCM helps to administer funds from the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help prevent military veterans from becoming homeless. DCM teams up with the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta and the United Way of Greater Atlanta in this endeavor. DCM provides food, the United Way provides housing and the Furniture Bank provides the veterans with job training.
In all, White said DCM helps about 150 veteran families a year. Homelessness, she added, is a result of many different factors.
“We have housing programs and home assistance programs all along the continuum of homeless service,” said White, who has been with DCM for eight years, including four as Executive Director.
Since 2011, Amplify has raised and donated more than $210,000 to DCM.
White wishes to thank this year’s festival attendees. “By joining us at Amplify Decatur, you are making a real difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I see it every day.”