Drake House Interview
This interview is with Christy Merritt who is the director of programs at the Drake house.
Q: Can talk to me a little bit about the families you serve and how they come to your organization?
A: The Drake House opened its doors in 2006 to single mothers and their children who are experiencing homelessness in this North- Fulton area. The reason that population was chosen is because that was the largest unmet need in the Roswell/North-Fulton community.The volunteers who started the Drake House talked to different non-profit partners and learned about community needs and that we needed an emergency housing program in this area because there was never one, and the need was there, so that was how the population was decided.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge now with your charity and when is was starting?
A: The biggest problem when we started the charity that still exists today is the need for after hours childcare. If you see signs in businesses advertising that they have jobs, it is usually a restaurant or retail place, which will want you to work evening and weekends usually. There is not any daycare usually at those times, so that is part of why some homeless single mothers cannot fill those positions. Another main problem that we are facing now is the lack of affordable housing. In North- Fulton, Sandy Springs, and really almost everywhere in America the lower costing apartments are being teared down to make room for fancy, expensive apartments.
Q: How do you help people become independent?
A: The whole time people are at the Drake House our services are geared towards working towards independence. Through all of the required steps and programs the families are making changes in the way they do things, learning new information, increasing their income, and getting better/any employment. We have the moms fill out a worksheet that asks them questions about their goals and their needs. Through that information, it helps us with a roadmap in helping them in areas that they need help with. Another piece is that in order to qualify for our program the family has to put housing as the first thing on their checklist. The biggest obstacle that stops some families on focusing on housing are car payments. When families will buy used cars they will buy it from a lot that charges super high interest rates. In order to secure housing the percentage of their income that is being spent on transportation is way out of balance with what the recommended formula is. We have to talk to the families and tell them that we will provide them housing but they have to put getting housing as their first priority, some families do end up saying that the car is more important.
Q: How can kids help with homelessness?
A: We are not able to involve kids in volunteering because many of the kids we serve go to the schools around here and so would most of the children volunteering. One of the things we are most in need of is things like toilet paper, diapers, feminine hygiene products, and other things like that. We are need of those items because (although we still do need food) the only things food stamps cover, are food, so the families do not have the money to buy things like that.
Q: As far as government programs that support child care, are there some?
A: Yes there is a government program that supports child care. But the trick is to qualify for that program you have to be unemployed. If you get a job and apply there is a different pool of money for that, but that pot of money seems to always be empty.