By: Ellen Gerstein | Executive Director | Gwinnett Coalition
Ellen Gerstein

The Gwinnett Coalition partners with local organizations to combat these disturbing issues

On a cold Monday morning in December a single mom calls the Gwinnett Helpline, a program of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, desperately seeking resources for herself and her two young children. Not only has she just received notice that she’s about to be kicked out of the extended stay hotel room she calls ‘home’- but since her funds are low, she is also struggling to find someone to help her provide her children’s next meal. 

The Reality
No one should have to worry about when their next meal will be or where they will sleep for the night. The reality is hunger and homelessness are widespread problems that affect far too many people right here in Gwinnett County. 

Fifty-five percent of youth in Gwinnett County are on free or reduced lunch for the 2016-2017 school year. A large number of Gwinnett County public schools have over 90% of their children on free or reduced lunch.

What’s Being Done
Urgent calls like the one from this single mom are common at the Gwinnett Helpline. “Every day we field desperate calls for food, shelter, seasonal care, and financial help with rent or utilities,” said Suzy Bus, the Helpline Director of the Gwinnett Coalition. “Lack of affordable low-income housing and poor or non-existent transportation to obtain the basic needs of food and medical care are just a few of the issues Gwinnett County residents face that contribute to the matters of homelessness and hunger.”

HungryHomelessGwinnett 220The Gwinnett Coalition, a non-profit organization (located in Lawrenceville), brings awareness to these issues through committees that work specifically on identifying needs of Gwinnett residents, planning solutions, and being accountable for results.

Who’s Involved 
“Homelessness and hunger have become a big problem in Gwinnett County in the past 10-15 years, especially the last 2-3,” said Shirley Cabe, Executive Director of the Norcross Cooperative Ministry. “There’s not enough homeless shelters in Gwinnett.” 

The Norcross Co-Op is one of the Gwinnett Coalition’s referral organizations that connects homeless families with food from their food pantry and provides short-term housing in extended stay hotels. Last year, they served 30,000 families and gave away 40,000 bags of groceries.

“Many children go hungry in the summertime because of the lack of food drives,” said Davida Baker with Project Kids Eat, located in Norcross. “Everyone can do something,” said Baker. Davida Baker founded Project Kids Eat (PKE) 17 years ago to feed kids in the summer when school lunch is not being provided. PKE provided over 12,000 meals last summer to children living in extended stay hotels in Gwinnett. 

What You Can Do
The Gwinnett Coalition has many opportunities to volunteer year-round through its Gwinnett Helpline, a referral service connecting people with immediate needs to resources in Gwinnett that can help them. Call 770-995-3339 today if you’re interested in volunteering, or to find out other ways of meeting these critical needs. If being on the phone is not for you, helping someone in need can be as simple as putting together a “blessing bag” to drop off at the Gwinnett Coalition or local food Co-Op. The staff ensures it will get it to a senior, youth, veteran, or other Gwinnett County resident in need.

About the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services
The Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services is a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the health and human service needs of everyone in Gwinnett County, Georgia. It does so through collaborative community planning, applied research, community education, membership diversity, consensus building, advocacy, and innovation.

Published: 2018-02-01 01:40