Eleven beds doesn’t sound like much.
But those 11 beds, the few spaces available at the SaltLight Center for those in need, represented the only true emergency homeless shelter anywhere in Gwinnett County — and now they’re gone, at least for a while.
Family Promise of Gwinnett, the nonprofit that runs SaltLight, announced last week that it was suspending operations at the shelter and cutting back on other services amid a budget crunch. It was a tough decision, officials said, and not one taken lightly.
It’s also a situation that points to the importance of initiatives like the one Gwinnett launched earlier this summer, one that’s aimed at assessing the current homelessness situation and developing a model to better address it.
If tough times can leave a county with more than 900,000 people — thousands of which are believed to be homeless or “tentatively housed” — without even the smallest of emergency shelters, there’s room for more to be done, said Matt Elder.
“That burden of having the only shelter beds shouldn’t be shared by a single organization or one location,” said Elder, who left Family Promise in June to lead the new countywide initiative spearheaded by Gwinnett and the United Way.
Gwen Perkins is the vice president of Family Promise of Gwinnett’s board of trustees. She said the organization needs to raise $150,000 in order to reopen the SaltLight Center — which served almost 500 women and children in 2017 — and restore other services through the end of the year.
“What we’ve been seeing for the past 12 or 18 months or so really is a decline, frankly, in income from a couple of different sources,” Perkins said. “And that coupled with some growth that we were shooting for, which created some additional expense … then you get kind of where we are today.”
Perkins, though, said she’s optimistic about the situation and hopes that two upcoming fundraisers will go a long way toward alleviating the financial issues.
The annual charity golf tournament that benefits Family Promise will be held Oct. 15 at Reunion Country Club in Hoschton. The Oct. 20 Ordner Construction 5K, held at Lions Club Park in Lilburn, will also benefit Family Promise.
Those interested in making donations can also do so at familypromisegwinnett.org, or by mail to Family Promise of Gwinnett, P.O. Box 464971, Lawrenceville, Ga. 30042.
Perkins declined to provide a specific time frame for when the SaltLight Center could be back up and running.