News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Oct. 29, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Right now, eight families in Richmond County are moving off the streets and into more than just a new house. For them, it's a new start.
The Action Ministries Transitional Housing program is in 19 counties in Georgia. Richmond County only had two houses until recently a grant gave them eight more. Now, a total of 10 families have a house and the chance of a new home.
The King family graduated from the program in December 2011. Cecilia King, her husband and 9- and 18-year-old grandsons spent two years in the program.
"We're a blessed family and we know it," Cecilia said.
It's hard to imagine just a short time ago, they were homeless.
"We had started to struggle financially," she said. "I'd had back surgery and I wasn't working full time and my husband was, but he wasn't making enough money to keep us into our own house so we found ourselves homeless."
That's when the family of four moved in to a Residence Inn.
"We are the face of homelessness, we are," she said.
They lived there for nine months until they found out about the Action Ministries program. At first, it sounded too good to be true.
"I looked at my husband and I said, 'She said it's real' and you just couldn't slap smile off our faces," she said. "You just couldn't."
For two years, they kept on smiling, until they had saved enough for their own place.
"It allowed me time to get my strength back up to where I could work full time," King said.
A case manager is assigned to each family.
"That case manager can help them with finances is a big part, budgeting, they help with locating jobs, resumes, interviewing skills," explained Danielle Meyer, the case manager for the King family.
"Danielle taught us about our finances, which is proof that it's never too late for an old dog to learn new tricks," King said.
Homelessness can happen to anyone. Experts say one out of every three families are one paycheck away from being on the street or in a hotel.
"People need to realize that the face of homelessness can be the person sitting right next to them," King said.
"The need is huge," Meyer said. "There are so many families right now that are struggling. There are families that are living paycheck to paycheck and one major catastrophe is all it would take for them to end up in a hotel."
For the King family, it was in that hotel that they realized it's the little things that make a house a home.
"You know where it really hit home for us," Cecilia said, "we went over to our youth pastor's home at Halloween just before we moved into our house and we'd been in this hotel room. Four of us, where there's two beds and not a couch and we sat on their couch and it felt like a home. We didn't realize how much we'd missed a couch."
Now for Cecilia's family, there truly is no place like home.
"What would you have done without this program?" asked News 12s Hope Jensen.
"We probably would still be in a residence hotel living day to day trying to figure out how we were gonna ever get ourselves back on our feet again," King said.
This will be the first Thanksgiving in three years the King family will spend in their own home.
Cecelia's story is just one of many. To qualify for the program, you must have children under 18, be homeless or at an immediate risk for homelessness and pass a drug and background test. There's also an interview.
If you want to help Action Ministries, La-Z-Boy is having a furniture trade-in until Oct. 31 to help fill the eight new houses. You can find information on that here. If you want to help Action Ministries by donating, click here.