In addition to day-in-and-day-out help for people living homeless in Macon, Daybreak is sponsoring a series of meetings for community discussion, exploration and action concerning needs and solutions to problems of homelessness.
The gatherings are spurred in part by interest and positive and negative response to city action at the end of 2017 to remove homeless individuals encamped along the Ocmulgee River.
“It’s caused new interest and that’s the good part,” said Sister Theresa Sullivan, director of the center. “That and the cold weather we’ve seen over a long period have raised concern and a lot of people are interested and have been asking us questions. People have even called saying I know a person who’s homeless, what can I do?”
Sullivan said meetings this year have looked at overall problems, heard from local agencies serving homeless people and considered solutions in other communities. Such meetings will continue, but on Feb. 22, Daybreak is asking people throughout the community to show solidarity with those living homeless by spending the night outside in the open downtown.
The event, called the Greater Macon Sleepout, is also Daybreak’s major annual fundraiser. It typically supplies about 30 percent of the center’s operating funds. Persons wanting to participate can contact Daybreak or go to www.maconsleepout.com.
“It’s our fifth sleepout since Daybreak opened here in 2012,” Sullivan said. She said other support comes locally from individuals, businesses, organizations, congregations and other generous parties, as well as through grants. She said contributions range from financial help to gifts of bottled laundry detergent and personal hygiene items.
Daybreak is a local ministry supported by local partners though its parent organization is Depaul International, a Roman Catholic charitable organization working with “the poorest of the poor” worldwide.
Daybreak provides men and women living homeless with a comfortable place to come to on weekdays. There are books, games and other constructive ways to pass time. There is access to showers and laundry and there are telephones and computers available. There is medical care and help toward finding services, making job applications and finding and filling out paperwork to receive appropriate benefits. All are largely dependent on volunteer’s help. Volunteering at Daybreak may mean anything from helping with the above to serving breakfasts or even bringing personal touches to the center such as knitting sessions, doing puzzles or crosswords or even giving regular cello concerts.
The help he needed
Also at Daybreak, some situations might mean providing access to medication. That was particularly helpful to one man, Craig Holland, who found himself living homeless in 2013 after illness caused him to lose work.
“I got sick and couldn’t work,” Holland said. “With no money I had to sleep outside. I was sleeping under a bridge and in an alley. I was already sick and that made it worse. I started coming to Daybreak to spend time, get breakfast and they helped me get my medicine so I could get well. They also helped me get a hip replacement. I was able to get my retirement and disability and now I have a place to live again. Daybreak has really meant a lot to me and I made a lot of friends here. Without Daybreak, I probably wouldn’t be alive.”
Sullivan said Holland is one of the center’s best and most faithful volunteers now. He often spends his days serving others by washing clothes.
Gaye Martel is volunteer coordinator at the center. She said she began as a volunteer when Daybreak opened and has been on staff for three years. She said staff and volunteers arrive early each day to begin preparing breakfast and activities but are always met by a handful of people already waiting for the doors to officially open at 7:30 a.m.
She said some are looking for specific services, others just for a place to be and sit. She said there can be 80 at breakfast with as many as 120 coming throughout the day. She said Daybreak’s hours, even it’s closing from 11 a.m. to noon many weekdays, reflects the desire to cooperate with other congregations and agencies who serve and provide for the poor, such as Macon Outreach-Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, which serves lunch most weekdays, Loaves and Fishes, which provides sack lunches, Christ Episcopal Church, which serves lunch meals on weekends, the Middle Georgia Rescue Mission, which offers late afternoon dinner and other organizations and their related services, such as the Salvation Army.
“We don’t want to give anyone here a reason not to take advantage of the good things others are doing,” she said. “It takes all of us working together.”
A positive search for solutions
Sullivan said such cooperation and collaboration is crucial to finding solutions to homeless issues. She said even before opening, Daybreak did a surveyed to find out what was being done in Macon so it could lessen a duplication of effort and better meet unmet needs.
“That’s why it’s not entirely helpful getting mad at the city or anyone for what they did or didn’t do or about how or what they’re doing,” she said. “It’s such a huge, complex situation it will take all of us working hand in hand. I was just in a meeting with Mayor (Robert) Reichert and other city officials along with representatives from various faith communities and agencies. What I’m happy about is we’re talking together and looking at how to find the best solutions to help homeless people. I don’t think anyone is unconcerned though there are many approaches. If we want answers we have to work together and that means people throughout the community playing a part.”
Sullivan said that brings her thoughts back to the community meetings at Daybreak.
“It’s discouraging seeing the problem, the need and the desperate look in so many homeless people’s faces and in reality I’d like — we’d all like — to find the answer that will make homelessness go away tomorrow,” she said. “But that’s not what we have. What we do have is the encouragement that so many people showed up for a meeting about homelessness, I think around 125 were at our first meeting. What’s encouraging is from that we’ve already seen new awareness and new volunteers. We just had a new person drop by with a bunch of laundry detergent. I’m happy to see the commitment and collaboration we have all around. It will take the kind of resolve we’re seeing — and more. There’s a place for everyone to help and a need for it. We have to keep looking at issues and assets and continue bringing them together. We need a calm enthusiasm toward finding answers and not toward placing blame. And in it all, we have to make sure we’re making those living homeless part of the process because it’s their issue. It’s what they face every day.”
Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 174 Walnut St., Macon, Ga. 31201
Leadership: Sister Theresa Sullivan, director
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; 12:30-4 p.m. Tuesday, closed Saturday and Sunday
Website: www.facebook.com/depauldaybreak, www.maconsleepout.com