United Way, St. Vincent de Paul and Gwinnett Housing Corporation partner with Gwinnett County to offer services as Norcross families move to stable housing.
The Norcross City Council unanimously approved the allocation of $25,000 in city funds to help some 20 local families who currently live in extended-stay hotels find more stable housing.
The $25,000 will help fund an innovative “motel-to-home” pilot program in the City of Norcross, in partnership with the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, the Gwinnett Housing Corporation and an affordable housing initiative led by volunteers known as LiveNorcross.
“Our city’s commitment to and partnership with GICH LiveNorcross is solidified by this grant,” said Norcross Mayor Craig Newton. “Our council is committed to improving the quality of life for all who call Norcross home.”
“We are hoping that this pilot will allow us to show that, with minimal investment, we can assist these working families in securing permanent housing,” said Lejla Prljaca, executive director of the Gwinnett Housing Corporation and a LiveNorcross co-founder. “Many of these families are paying up to $1,600 per month in these establishments, which doesn’t allow them to save the money needed for deposits and first-month rent. This program will help them overcome that initial hump and move back into more stable housing.”
United Way of Greater Atlanta will match the $25,000 to kick off this initiative. The $50,000 will help selected families pay for the deposit and the first month of rent. The families, which will be screened for needs, will receive ongoing mentoring to ensure they are successful as they transition to more permanent housing.
“Our volunteers throughout the state are reporting an increasing number of families living in extended-stay motels due to the lack of affordable housing options,” said Denise Fisher, advocacy director with SVdP Georgia. “The families enter the motels to solve a short-term crisis, but then find themselves stuck financially and unable to get out. These motels have become the affordable housing option of last resort.”
LiveNorcross unveiled a study in May that surveyed the residents of extended-stay hotels. There are 14 such hotels within city limits, and nine of these establishments serve primarily as residential facilities. The study found that 84% of survey respondents indicated that the extended-stay motel is their place of residence. Some 29% of the residents are ages 55 and up, and 40% of the families living at these motels have children. The residents of these extended-stays have jobs but are struggling financially. They are able to pay a monthly amount in hotel-stay that would be similar to what they’d pay for a rental, yet they can’t come up with the two or three months of rent that renters must pay upfront.
Families living for months in motels adversely impacts children’s school performance and disrupts family resilience.
“It is the largest unmet need in our community, according to data from our 211 service,” said Protip Biswas, vice president of homelessness for the United Way of Greater Atlanta. “This partnership and funding to help families with housing and support will be a great step forward and a model to emulate.”
The $50,000 in available funds for this initiative will allow these families to move out and rent an apartment on their own, with the support of the partner organizations. The United Way of Greater Atlanta will administer the pilot, with hopes of expanding the program in the future. SVdP Georgia will lead the program and offer customized case management for the families, including assistance in accessing banking services and credit repair.
“Money alone is often not enough to help these families achieve stable housing,” said Fisher of SVdP. “Our experience has taught us that ongoing casework is essential for them to obtain stable housing and be able to keep it. We will also be collecting additional data to provide follow-up to the original LiveNorcross study. It’s important for us to be able to identify any additional unanticipated barriers these families face in securing stable housing so that these can be addressed before we expand the program to other communities.”
The Gwinnett Housing Corporation will house some of the homeless families referred to them by the SVdP Georgia case managers through its Pathway HOME program that offers transitional housing for homeless families with children. These affordable housing units were funded, in part by, Gwinnett County’s Community Development Program.