According to HFTH, 1 in 50 American children are homeless and 40 to 60 percent of the homeless are working.
“That’s one of the misnomers of homelessness, that they are not employed,” Omilami said. “Here in Atlanta, affordable housing has become just nonexistent for working families.”
She said the homeless usually fall into one of three categories: the chronically homeless who have mental health issues and are not getting help; transitory homeless who are almost ready for work and need a hand up, and the working poor who are one paycheck away from being homeless but don’t qualify for benefits because their income is just one step above the threshold for assistance.
The need for assistance is increasing, Omilami said, but resources are down because of the recession and the impending “fiscal cliff.”
Federal Hope VI funding, intended meant to revitalize the worst public housing projects in the United States into mixed-income developments, were used to tear down public housing in Atlanta but was not replaced and that the homeless have largely been forced into extended stay hotels, which have a limit on how long a family can stay. As a result, children often bounce from school district to school district during the year as their families are forced from an extended stay hotel in one community to another.
“It was very detrimental for people in the city who were living in public housing,” Omilami said.
Hosea Feed the Hungry has had to cut its budget as federal funds have been reduced and donations to the organization fell 28 percent this year, Omilami said.
One program particularly hard hit paid rent for the first three to six months for unemployed clients while they looked for work and got back on their feet. HFTH also helps clients find entry level work, usually in the hospitality industry. Omilami said she expects to meet with the United Way soon to see if HFTH can get assistance to keep the program running.
People wishing to help can text 4HOSEA to 20222 to donate $10, which will be added to your phone bill. This is enough to feed three families or make a larger donation by visiting Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless or become a member and make a monthly donation. Eighty percent of every dollar goes directly into programming.
Omilami also encourages people, especially those in the Atlanta area, to become volunteers.
“Volunteers are critical to our success,” she said. “Our programs are so robust we couldn’t possibly pay a full staff.”