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Changing lives: Phoenix Pass transitional housing opens

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

CONYERS -- The phrase "It takes a village..." meant many things during the dedication of the Phoenix Pass transitional housing complex Wednesday. Speakers at the event praised the community and project partners for coming together to build the building and also in committing to help families get a new start from a homeless situation.

In the coming months, mothers and their children who are temporarily homeless and meet the program's criteria can live in one of the eight units at Phoenix Pass until they can get back on their feet and support themselves.

Ron Simpson, president of Phoenix Pass Inc., the local nonprofit organization that will operate the facility, told the gathering Wednesday his description of what Phoenix Pass does had gotten lengthy, in explaining the life skills classes, mentorship and aftercare programs, all coordinated to help clients become productive members of the community.

"I now tell people who ask that Phoenix Pass is in the business of changing lives," he said. "How we do that is another question. But, in short, families will move in here, they will stay here for awhile, and when they move out they will be changed."

The dedication was also an opportunity to thank all who had either donated money, materials or labor to build the facility. HomeAid Atlanta, the designated charity of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, helped coordinate donations from 50 businesses, along with Horizon Home builders and Manor Homes, who served as build captains for the project.

Rockdale Emergency Relief partnered with First Baptist Church of Conyers in forming Phoenix Pass Inc. and will have a role in selecting families for the program. RER Executive Director Ashley Roesler said the need is out there for transitional housing, but funding such long-term approaches has been difficult to find in the down economy.

Roesler said RER has been able to refer people to other services through United Way 2-1-1, a 24-hour community service database that connects individuals to find or give help to others.

"Funding has emphasized less intensive homelessness prevention programs recently, and we provide those services," she said. "Phoenix Pass and its long-term program is another service we can provide to help families."'

State Sen. Ron Ramsey, D-Lithonia, presented a proclamation from the Georgia Senate, and Mimi Box, a representative of musician Jon Bon Jovi's Soul Foundation, which supported the Phoenix Pass construction project, gave her congratulations.

Also, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, now a co-chairwoman of the Atlanta Regional Commission on Homelessness, offered a few words on Phoenix Pass' mission. She recalled that growing up she remembered how family, friends and colleagues helped her father recover from alcoholism and that, in turn, had a positive change in her life. She believed programs like Phoenix Pass can have a similar impact on people's lives across metro Atlanta.

The day was also a chance for Simpson to remind everyone that the dedication was just the beginning and Phoenix Pass would need ongoing support from the community to fulfill its mission. He estimated the program would have an annual operating budget of $114,000. Also, a second set of eight apartments is planned at the site.