If one has visited Carrollton’s Square recently, they might have noticed a slight change in its appearance. Rather than its typical color pallet, the downtown area sports a hue of dark purple. This is no coincidence, as this color brings awareness to a daily battle.
The nonprofit organization Impact West Georgia defines homelessness as a lack of dwelling where one can rest or places not properly adequate for habitation. This local organization is leading the charge in bringing awareness and resources to those in need.
The faith-based nonprofit began its journey decades ago, starting in the late 90s in the back of a fast-food parking lot in Newnan. Then, its primary mission was to hold English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Shortly after being incorporated in 2005, the City of Carrollton approached the nonprofit to do something that CEO and founder Kathy Parsons said was outside their wheelhouse.
“The City of Carrollton came and asked us if we would open a homeless shelter for men,” said Parsons. “We had never worked with a residential program.”
Unsure of approaching the new endeavor, Parsons visited other shelters around the state, searching for the best practices to take with her. The City lent a building for the organization, and the HOPE Center opened its door to its first resident in 2008.
“HOPE is a moderate to high barrier shelter for men to have the ability to live independently…to make a living wage,” said Parsons “We try to teach them soft skills.”
The center houses ten men at a time, where they are taught how to properly cook, clean and become financially autonomous. The goal for the residents is that one day, they can move out of the HOPE Center to truly live independently.
Among the other services, Impact West Georgia provides warming centers during the colder months. These centers are provided all around the city when the temperature gets below 32 degrees. The organization has been trying to find a permanent location for its community shelter in recent years. Fortunately, a permanent establishment is in the works, hoping to open it soon.
“It will be a very low-barrier shelter…. We provide three meals a day,” said Parsons. “It will be open during the week for document acquisition, for them to be able to wash their clothes and take a shower.”
Outreach Encampment is another program that services people experiencing homelessness, providing all that is needed for encampment, including what is called a homeless mat.
“They are made out of plastic bags…. It takes 1,000 plastic bags to make one of these mats,” said Parsons.
The other two divisions cover other under-helped communities. DESERVE is a free Veterans program that provides transportation for veterans to their medical appointments. The Adult and Community Education division provides services like reading and writing classes for adults as well as numerous workshops on faith, culture, and lifestyle.
“We want to empower people who feel like they don’t have a voice,” said Parson. “In doing so, we make Carrollton, Carroll County, a better place to live for everybody.”
Impact West Georgia has made great strides in tending to the community, but they hope they can do more. If one would like to get involved, visit their website, impactwestga.org.