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Group elects chair to oversee homeless initiative
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Representatives with several local churches have taken the initial steps in establishing a faith-based organization intended to help homeless families get back on their feet.

While still in the planning stages, the local group last week elected Donna Weaver to serve as its chairwoman.

"It is a unique program in that families are not separated. A lot of times in shelters, men and boys are separated from women and girls," said Donna Weaver. "This is an attempt to hold the family together and empower them."

Gary Pichon said the initiative is much needed in the community.

"We have homeless here. They're out of sight and out of mind, just ask the school system," said Pichon, who is a member of Grace Presbyterian Church, which spearheaded the effort. "We have a lot of kids that have no home. They're living in cars, in tents, living with family. They don't have a home of their own.

"We need to do something and this is a good way."

With support from the national organization of the same name, Family Promise would provide families in need temporary housing and job training while they search for more permanent housing arrangements.

"The way it works is you collect a bunch of congregations that then commit to housing a family, up to 14 people, in their churches at night," Pichon said. "During the day, the families go to a day center where they can wash clothes, take showers, go to counseling, make applications for jobs and have an address...where people can reply to them."

Locally, neighboring Hall County has a successful program, as does White County, according to Grace Presbyterian Pastor David Jordan.

Nationally, the Family Promise program has a graduation rate of 80 percent.

Pichon said the program is a win for all involved.

"It tries to bring the faith community together and it takes lots of volunteers," he said. "It's a system that doesn't just take people and park them somewhere. It's a system that makes congregations involved in their lives.

"It's for the benefit of the congregations, as well as the families that we try to help."