The Sumter Area Ministerial Association has been helping homeless families find temporary places to stay for years. Recently, Evangelist Snipes, an involved member of SAMA, decided that short-term lodging was no longer enough.
Upon connecting with Kirk Lyman-Barner, director of the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing, Snipes grew her vision for a new ministry: a full-fledged non-profit providing homes for homeless families in Americus, with a maximum stay in the homes of two years. At the time, the only shelter in Americus could not accept families with children due to safety concerns, leaving these families with very few options.
Thus, the Americus-Sumter Transitional Housing Ministries, a registered 501(c)3 organization, was born. Families that are homeless in Americus are able to apply for lodging with the organization and are then given a mentor. The mentor helps them as they work to get a job, manage an income, and handle any personal problems they may be battling. So far, one home in Americus has been donated to the organization, with hopefully many more to come.
“There is one family that I am mentoring; I first met the mom in jail years ago. We were able to get her housed, she has a job, she goes to church with me, she comes to meetings every week at my house. She had been living in her car with her five kids beforehand. They took turns on who got to be inside the car,” Snipes said of the organization’s early success.
The organization quickly drew community attention, piquing the interest of Georgia Southwestern State University Professor Keaton Wynn. Upon hearing that the houses were unfurnished, he saw a need, and wondered if his art students could help to fill it.
Wynn began designing a three-credit course for the art department at GSW. The class drew the attention of several students, who have spent the semester conducting spatial analyses of the homes, drawing sketches, and learning about the connection between art and social activism.
The students have created glassware, flatware, a coffee table, curtains, and more unique pieces to fill one of the homes for the ministry. Professor Justin Hodges refers to the creations as a “startup kit,” filling the basic needs of a family when they move into an empty home.
“These artists took the time and thought about the family and created something special for these folks — it’s just very uplifting. They are channeling their talents for good.” — Kirk Lyman-Barner, Director, Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing
“It’s a diverse group of students, glassblowers and painters and ceramic workers and photographers. To see the students come together with challenging ideas outside of their typical mediums has been awesome,” Hodges said of the student’s range of backgrounds. The college is already discussing offering the class again next spring, and creating more startup kits for families in need.
Lyman-Barner has been thrilled at the community responses and desires to be involved in the organization. “These artists took the time and thought about the family and created something special for these folks — it’s just very uplifting. They are channeling their talents for good.”
And the interest hasn’t stopped with GSW. In fact, Lyman-Barner received an email just last week from Furlow Charter School, expressing their desire to build bookshelves and fill them with books for the kids.
If you are interested in getting involved with this organization, whether through donating property, building furniture, or something else, please contact the transitional housing advocates at (229) 942-9025.