Originally created 09/27/03

Homelessness can send families reeling



Once homeless, they typically careen from temporary shelters to the streets and back again before they stabilize.

But an innovative three-step program to move families from homelessness to homeownership may short-circuit the cycle, said the Rev. Mark Deaton, director of GAP Ministries.

"Here is a model that creates hope for people on the streets," he said.

Three agencies - Augusta/CSRA Habitat for Humanity, the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Augusta and GAP (Greater Augusta Presbyterians and Disciples of Christ) - partnered two years ago to rehab a house designed to provide homeless families transitional housing.

The GAP House in downtown Augusta provides families continuity between Interfaith's temporary shelters and Habitat's home-building process, the Rev. Deaton said.

Drawing on resources from the three partnered agencies, families in the GAP House receive counseling in maintaining a home, budgeting and other areas as they ready themselves for the Habitat process of building a home of their own.

Hugh Tarcai, executive director of Augusta/CSRA Habitat, said, as far as he knows, the Augusta partnership was the first of its kind between the international Habitat and other nonprofits though collaboration isn't new to Habitat.

Nonprofits need to show that they can work together to better the community, he said. "We hope to do a lot more of this."

The GAP House renovation took two years after the house's out-of-town owner agreed to lease the property to GAP rather than leave it to squatters.

The Rev. Deaton said that "bags of needles and dog feces" were hauled out before workers started rehabilitating the two-story house.

The bright, airy GAP House today is divided into two apartments. Each has a master bedroom, a children's bedroom, a great room, a kitchen, a bath and laundry facilities. A fenced-in back yard gives children a play area.

Taking a cue from the GAP House, neighbors have started sprucing up their property. "We are trying to take back a block at a time," the Rev. Deaton said.

For more information on the agencies, call GAP at 722-6151, Interfaith at 364-4462 or Habitat at 481-8681 or visit Habitat at its the Web site, www.augustahabitat.org.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.