It's the final push, and thanks to a $60,000 grant from the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, Phoenix Pass, Inc., will break ground on the new apartment units for temporarily homeless women and their children on Thursday, May 14 at 10 a.m., at the Conyers complex.
The grant from the New Jersey-based charity will be used, in part, to help the Rockdale County transitional housing project garner more community support. Phoenix Pass will need to raise an additional $40,000 from the community to partially match the Foundation's grant and complete its capital campaign.
"Jon Bon Jovi Foundation really tries to help families in economic stress," said Marcie Howington, Executive Director of the transitional housing program. "They have been overwhelming with their support and they've been very happy with the program we've had with our first set of apartments.
Located on the Light House Village campus at 541 Sigman Road, Phoenix Pass is a partnership between First Baptist Church of Conyers and Rockdale Emergency Relief, a non-profit organization supported by United Way in Rockdale. During construction, HomeAid Atlanta, will partner with Phoenix Pass by providing donations of providing donations of professional construction services.
The apartments provide transitional housing for families in crisis, offering independent living and preparing them to be self-sufficient. In addition to providing stable housing, the program provides services and resources to help families rebuild their lives. The families are then expected to transition back into the community as productive and self-sufficient citizens.
"We're trying to break the cycle of homelessness," Howington said. "Some of these families may have been homeless most of their lives. Other families may have [experienced] traumatic events. They may have been homeowners, are educated and used to living on their own. To put them in a dorm-like room would be even more traumatic."
The apartments, she said, gives them something to be proud of, and it gives them hope for the future.
It's not the first time the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has given to Phoenix Pass, which is the only project in Georgia it funds. In 2010, during the first phase of construction, the foundation donated $60,000 to the project. Since then, the Conyers-based project has kept in contact with the foundation, sharing success stories about the families that have graduated from the program and sending Christmas cards, said Howington.
Mimi Box, Executive Director of the Philadelphia based nonprofit, said Conyers stood out for several reasons, including the strong partnership between the Phoenix Pass project and Rockdale Emergency Relief that would "enable the program to focus on the needs of the families who would be in residence. Support that empowers individuals to rebuild a productive, self-sufficient lifestyle is an important component of any build we do.
"The need to address the issues of the chronically homelessness as identified by the county school system was so compelling, we had to act," she said. "So when they were ready with Phase II of this project, we, too, were ready to respond - again with the ‘gap' funding that would be needed to move the project forward." Box said.
Originally, the second phase of the Phoenix Pass project was to break ground in January of this year, but "we wanted to wait until the weather was more temperate [to begin construction]," Howington said.
They also wanted to have at least 75 percent of the $600,000 capital campaign raised before breaking ground, she said. "Getting the $60,000 puts us so close to our goal. Once we raise the $40,000 [from the community], we will be able to move forward debt free. We hope to have the construction completed this fall, with families moved in by the end of the year."
The non-profit has raised more than $500,000 since July. "We've been really blessed with support from individuals to corporations and businesses," said Howington.
The new units will double the size of the existing program, making it possible to serve eight additional families of single women and their children. The $600,000 construction project will add six two bedroom and two three bedroom apartments, as well as a classroom, a bigger laundry facility and office space. Two of the apartments will be made available to women veterans with children. Referrals will be done through United Way of Greater Atlanta.
The expansion of the transitional housing program is needed, she said. Recently, an apartment became available and there were 85 applicants. "It was overwhelming for us, and disheartening to applicants," she said. "People are shocked to learn there are over 400 kids who are identified as homeless. There are [others] who sleep in cars or who couch surf week-to-week, and they may not be included in that number."
Once the buildings are completed, Howington said, Phoenix Pass will need volunteer help to prepare and furnish the apartments.
For more information or to donate online, go to www.phoenixpass.org.