More than five years ago, Phoenix Pass began as a dream to aid homeless women and children in getting back on the path to independence and self sufficiency. Now, after helping 13 families on their way to self-reliance, welcoming four new families and passing the baton to a new board chairman, the transitional housing program is on the brink of launching into its next stage of development.
Plans are underway to double the living space for women and children in need of help getting their lives back on track. By this summer, Phoenix Pass plans to break ground on a 10-unit building to double the capacity of the program, which serves the needs of women and families experiencing temporary homelessness by giving them the opportunity to reestablish self-sufficiency in a stable residential setting.
And while an enormous fundraising campaign is underway to raise the equivalent of $440,000 in labor and materials to build the second phase, Phoenix Pass is also asking the community for donations to support the four new families that have entered the program.
"These families have come from extremely hard times, and are excited and grateful to start a new chapter in their lives...one that will lead to stability and the re-establishing of self-sufficiency for the future," Phoenix Pass Executive Director Marcie Howington said this week. "This community has overwhelmed us with such an outpouring of love. Our families have been embraced by perfect strangers who care about them and just want to offer a hand up."
Howington said donations for the four families, who have mostly elementary-age children, can be anything from home furnishings and to monetary contributions to help get them settled into their new homes. She said there was an outpouring of donations last week, and any contributions can be brought to Phoenix Pass office on Sigman Road or can be delivered directly to the families.
"It was a blessing to be able to accept four families into our program," Howington said this week. "We still had to turn away so many applicants who also desperately needed our program. We are looking forward to the day when our new building will allow us to serve over twice as many families experiencing homelessness in Rockdale County."
The organization is hoping to be able to provide housing for an additional ten mothers and their children in time for Christmas, an ambitious but attainable goal according to founding board member Maury Wilson. He said the board made an agreement among themselves that the new building won't open until there is sufficient cash to open and operate it for a full year - a figure he estimates to be around $75,000.
"We need to raise about $220,000 between now and the fall," Wilson said. "You will be surprised how many people will get on board. People understand that we are not a handout. Everybody who is involved realizes that we are a different organization than most social organizations. We call this a transitional home, but it really is not in the strictest sense of the word. Our residents can stay here up to two years because what we are trying to do is change lives. It takes a year or two to change lives."
Wilson, a local builder who has been an advocate for the homeless for over a decade, said he has seen first-hand the results of the Phoenix Pass project. He stays in touch with many of the women he has helped over the years, and all of them learned to be responsible citizens and parents through the skills they learned at Phoenix Pass.
Many of the women who have come through the program have found themselves homeless through no fault of their own. Wilson said many of them are college educated but may have been stay-at-home moms or in low-paying jobs that won't support their families on a single-parent income. But, according to Wilson, what they all have in common is a desire to pick up their lives, support their families and eventually live in their own homes. To do so, they need gainful employment, and Phoenix Pass is asking the community not only for monetary and household donations or volunteer hours on the new building, but also for opportunities for the women to work in the community.
"Our most recent graduates all went out into stable home environments, all left with stable jobs, they are all registered voters, generally the kids have good grades, all of which improved while they were at Phoenix Pass," Wilson said. But to do that, they need meaningful opportunities to realize their potential in the work force.
Individuals can support the expansion through the "Phoenix Pass First Thousand Family" program, which is an annual donation of $120, or $10 per month, which is tax deductible. Member of this program Each "First Thousand Family" member will receive regular updates on the program and will have the opportunity to work as volunteers in many areas of need.
To donate items, time or funds to Phoenix Pass, call 770-760-1020 or visit www.PhoenixPass.org.