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Homeless shelter moving
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Rainbow Covenant Ministries is close to closing the deal on a new location in Covington for its homeless shelter which is currently located in the City of Porterdale.

According to Rainbow Covenant Ministries Assistant Director Cheryl Heard, the new location is a church located off Turner Lake Road. Heard said the shelter did not want to disclose its name until all of the paperwork was signed and the site met with the approval of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

"We've got to make sure the building is what we need," Heard said.

Heard said only minor renovations would be needed for the church to be fit for human habitation such as the installation of shower stalls and the addition of industrial kitchen appliances. Services at the church will continue to take place regardless of whether or not Covenant Ministries does relocate inside its premises.

Heard estimated that Covenant Ministries was two weeks to a month away from signing a contract on the 11,500 square-foot facility.

Rainbow Covenant Ministries Director the Rev. Clara Lett and her family had previously made the decision to donate five acres of land located in the Green Acres/Nelson Heights area for the use of the ministry. The possibility was originally raised that the land could be used to build a new shelter, but when residents in the neighborhood objected, Heard said the decision was made to search for a different location for the shelter.

Heard attributed the resistance of the neighborhood to the idea of a homeless shelter being built in its midst to a misconception of what Covenant Ministries is and who the people are it houses.

"A lot of times people don't understand what a shelter is. They see Atlanta; they see what's on TV," Heard said. "Homelessness is not pushing a shopping cart."

The majority of the people that Covenant Ministries houses are families who are temporarily without housing as a result of the loss of a job, foreclosure, or the rising cost of living.

"We're faced with families doubling up with families and a family member getting mad and putting them out," Heard said. "We see families that have been put out by situations."

Nevertheless, Heard said the decision was made to relocate Covenant Ministries to a location where it would fit with the standards of the surrounding area.

According to Heard, the land Lett and her family donated to Covenant Ministries could be used for the building of single-family affordable housing which she said was more in accordance with the wishes of the neighborhood.

Though Rainbow Covenant Ministries is looking relocate, Heard said that the Rainbow Covenant Church will stay right where it is, at 9 Hemlock Street in Porterdale.

The decision to relocate Rainbow Covenant Ministries has been in the works for some time as a result of rising rates of homelessness in Newton County and the four other surrounding counties which the shelter also serves.

In Covenant Ministries' six-year history, it has already housed 5,000 individuals according to Heard. The ministry currently operates three shelter sites in Porterdale with approximately 50 beds. The new location has room for 100 beds Heard said.

Heard said there is also the possibility that the Community Food Bank and FaithWorks, two other faith-driven ministries which also administer to the poor, would relocate to the new church as well.

"We don't know how everything will play out," Heard said.

Once the new location is approved by the DCA, Heard said Covenant Ministries will fill-out and submit an application to the DCA for a $500,000 grant available for the support of the new shelter. Additional funds are expected to be raised from the community.