We live in a blessed and affluent community. But not too far below the surface, there is an invisible population of people struggling with homelessness. Whether we choose to avert our eyes, or these unfortunates are able to swim just below the surface, we don’t see them either by choice or obliviousness.
Not too many people know of the students who sleep on the couches of friends, or the elderly person who sits for hours in the library because he has no place else to go. These people are here and we interact with them daily. The homeless are here. The invisible people are here. This series is to give those people a voice, bring them into the light and possibly help others in similar situations.
Although there are agencies in the community to help homeless people, single mothers often face special problems.
Take the case of Corrine Hooks, a 40-year-old mother of three.
For years, Hooks didn’t have a steady place to live. From 2009-12, the single mother with three children under 17 moved around trying to find assistance for her family.
She was pregnant with her third child when she and her son moved to a shelter in Atlanta. But, she was soon told she couldn’t return after she gave birth.
“They said because I had to have bedrest for six weeks, they wouldn’t be able to house me,” Hooks, 40, an assistant teacher, said. “I had no place else to go. I went and stayed with a few family members here and there and ended up staying with my sister. She gave me a limit of how long I could stay until it was enough.”
After that, she was referred to various nonprofit organizations, but she either didn’t qualify, couldn’t meet the minimum work requirements due to her children or had something else come up forcing her to quit the programs.
With her older son now a teenager, many organizations are unable to help the family due to stipulations for adult males housed with children.
Oddly, because Hooks has no substance abuse problem and isn’t in a domestic violence situation, her choices were limited.
“You have whole families, not just single parents, who are homeless,” Hooks said. “Not because they chose to be, but because they ran into circumstances beyond their control that put them in a position where they can’t do anything to help themselves. They just need a leg up sometimes.”
And even when things were looking up for the family, it seemed like something always got in the way.
Her children became sick from a dilapidated apartment they were living in, and she had to care for them, forcing her to cut work hours and earn less money.
She took on a part-time job driving for Uber which supplemented the income for a time, but it didn’t last long because of the sick children.
After everyone recovered, Hooks started to save money again and things began looking up for the family, until she hit a rough patch again.
The hotel manager where she was staying then referred her to North Fulton Community Charities. The nonprofit ended up paying weeks of her rent and helped her finalize the process for her own apartment, which her family has been in since March 24.
“Most resources out there give you a limit where you can’t come back for six months or a year,” Hooks said. “North Fulton doesn’t do that. There are no other programs that I know of out there like North Fulton. They stand out among the rest.”
Barbara Duffy, executive director for North Fulton Community Charities, said they repeatedly see cases similar to Hooks.
Churches, power companies and landlords often refer people in need to the Roswell nonprofit, so it frequently becomes a starting point for them.
They are able to suggest programs or organizations for help, but sometimes folks are not eligible, just like Hooks, Duffy said.
They see the same people return, and sometimes for different reasons.
“When we first see them they may need lots of help,” Duffy said. “Then as things get better, they may continue to come to stretch their income, use the thrift shop and perhaps get food to help reduce some of their expenses. So that way the money they do have can take care of the basic bills like rent and utilities.”
No matter their circumstances or history, Duffy said she wants people like Hooks to continue to be directed to North Fulton.
“They’re part of our community,” Duffy said. “Something has happened to them. All of us have been in a place in our life where we needed to reach out. When help is there, then we can continue to move forward.”
Situations like this aren’t just a North Fulton problem, Hooks said, but a worldwide issue.
When society turns its focus beyond those with mental issues, substance abuse problems or domestic violence situations, inroads can be made to eliminate homelessness.
“There are underlying impacts,” Hooks said. “If they find out the root cause, we can eliminate this. There is no reason for this.”
A community that makes provisions for those most vulnerable improves the quality of life for everyone, Duffy said, a trait she thinks makes North Fulton successful.
“It’s a true community engagement,” Duffy said. “We’ve been able to come together, work on a need that we’ve identified and make life a little bit better. We live in a great community.”
Hooks was fortunate to find her way to North Fulton Community Charities.
Unfortunately, she is the exception of a working mother trying to find help.