“I just felt that we should be doing more to help these single moms and their kids”, said Joe Skillin, a caseworker at SVdP’s conference at St. Benedict Catholic Church. “We often hear from their parents after an eviction has been filed and they call our helpline. I wanted to find a way to get to them before the eviction starts. Our message is simple: eviction doesn’t have to happen. We can help.”
So began Joe’s quest. He started by visiting Alicia Harrington, a fellow caseworker and paraprofessional at a local elementary school in the Johns Creek area. They then requested a meeting with three other social workers and Tim Corrigan, Fulton County Schools Northeast Learning Community Superintendent, to see what could be done to help families at risk of homelessness. Their message to the school personnel was direct: “At-risk families are living in extended stay motels, or in their cars, or with friends, and often the family has to break up to stay at different places. Although these people are not considered homeless by the narrow HUD standards, they are in fact homeless. The real number of homeless people in our community is estimated to be ten times what is reported by HUD. We need your help to reach them.”
“Our first meeting went great,” recalls Alicia. “The school social workers were enthusiastic, wanting to address and solve the problem of evicted single moms and their children. They wanted to do whatever they could to provide stability for their at-risk students. They asked SVdP to provide the schools with anti-eviction posters, as well as brochures, and contact cards the students can bring home to their parents.”
St. Brigid, the neighboring church to St. Benedict, is joining the effort to reduce the instances of eviction and address the broader question of workforce and other affordable housing.
Now that the schools are onboard to reduce evictions, Joe wants to expand this initiative to include the local apartment managers’ association and the city of Johns Creek.
Ideally, Johns Creek, the apartment management, and the schools in North Fulton County would all work together with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to help homeless students by reducing the numbers of evictions and identify opportunities for more affordable housing.
With the help of Tim, Alicia, and a few community-minded high school students, Joe was able to get the question of eviction and affordable housing introduced into a recent public debate of candidates for the city council. The topic is now on the public agenda. The next step is to get the topic on the City Council’s official agenda.