Today in Gainesville, Georgia, when the cars clear off the streets, the downtown office buildings go dark, and the city settles down to sleep, there will be nearly 200 individuals who have nowhere to call home. Gainesville, which is the seat for Hall County has earned many nicknames over the years because of its’ valuable location and because of its people. The most notable is Queen City of the Mountains and the Poultry Capital. An interesting designation came following the 1996 Olympics. An NBC broadcaster covering the Rowing/Kayaking event referred to Gainesville as the Hospitality Capital of the World. However, there are those in our midst –able-bodied, unsheltered men– who are in need of an ally; one who will help them to overcome their own unsettled histories.

The shelters in Hall County provide about 137 beds for homeless men. Most of these beds require residents to have a job to continue to remain there. Resources in Hall County provide excellent hospitality to this population, however, concerned citizens in our community have been searching for best practices to help make progress toward ending homelessness.

Between 2013 and 2015 the homeless population increased over 50% in Hall County. Moreover, the homeless population increased another 50% between 2015 and 2017. Despite the significant efforts of both private and public sectors, this population in Hall County’s has steadily increased over the last several years. As our community continues to grow, we want to have a viable solution to end homelessness and recidivism in Hall County, Georgia.

Leading the charge to find a solution in our community is Doug and Lynne Hanson. Doug formerly served on the Board of Directors for Good News Clinics in Gainesville and volunteers for several organizations that are committed to helping the neediest in our community. In 2011, newly-elected Governor Nathan Deal appointed Doug to the Department of Community Affairs State Board as a Commissioner to the State Housing Trust Fund for the Homeless. Doug served for five years expanding his horizons into the plight of the homeless and working on one of their chronic needs – affordable housing.

In 2013, Doug was introduced to Bill McGahan, a fellow Commissioner on the State Housing Trust Fund for the Homeless, who invited him to shadow the Georgia Works! model to end homelessness on the streets of Atlanta. The Georgia Works! program has helped more than 500 men to get off the street and into full-time employment and into permanent non-subsidized housing in the last three years. (www.georgiaworks.net)

Doug has worked tirelessly to take steps to reproduce the Georgia Works! model. Doug has spearheaded 130 local citizens of Hall County to visit two successive Georgia Work’s program graduation exercises in Atlanta. As a result, a 9-member board was organized, and fiscal sponsorship was provided to North Georgia Works! by North Georgia Community Foundation. North Georgia Works! will establish its effort in Hall County, working to end homelessness in our community.

North Georgia Works! is taking a comprehensive approach to breaking the cycle of homelessness, incarceration, addiction, and unemployment. The program requires participants to work, and through transitional employment experiences, enrollees’ habits are changed, money earned, a sense of self-worth is realized, and permanent employment and housing is ultimately achieved.

North Georgia Works! methodology is both comprehensive and individualized, providing participants with temporary housing, paid transitional work, case management services, life skills, spiritual formation, and workforce training. North Georgia Works! guides participants down a road to independence, so that, upon graduation, each man has addressed the underlying issues that contributed to homelessness, obtained permanent housing and, most importantly, secured long-term employment.

Once enrolled, the North Georgia Works! team will create a customized roadmap for success for each participant. The multi-phased program is intended to serve participants for one year; however, the average time of completion is seven months.

If a man pledges to adhere to the North Georgia Works! program requirements, the ministry will help him address and overcome the root causes that brought him to this place in life. North Georgia Works! is NOT A SHELTER and will not just be another program serving the homeless in Hall County–it is reproducing a model that is proven to employ integrated strategies to empower able-bodied, unsheltered men with the skills and resources needed to achieve self-sufficiency.

North Georgia Works! is not to be a handout–it will be a hand up. Those graduating our program will obtain full-time employment, independent housing and become substance-free taxpayers. We have the support of the Business Community in Hall County (see sponsors) to provide job opportunities.

We thank the North Georgia Community Foundation and the Hall County United Way for their support. We appreciate the faith-based community for their support, as well as the numerous businesses and individuals who have rallied their support to partner with us in ending homelessness in our great city. We also work with the Law Enforcement Community, Courts, Drug Treatment Programs, Pastors, Churches, Civic Organizations, Legal Services, Hall County government, and affordable housing to name a few.

Program participants come to North Georgia Works! from a variety of sources, i.e. Salvation Army, Set Free Ministries, Good News at Noon, Gainesville Baptist Rescue Mission, AVITA Community Partners, United Way, Action Ministries, Hall County Jail, Drug & Veterans Courts, Department of Corrections, etc. We also partner with the Reentry Programs in Hall County. Clients will be screened at several community sites before entering the North Georgia Works! Campus.