For more than half a century, Action Ministries/Gainesville—with the support of local churches, businesses and individuals—has worked to prevent homelessness by providing emergency funds, food, clothing and services.
“Leading people out of poverty is our mission,” says Regional Director Marlon Allen. “Often the first effort towards a solution is to put a bandage on the problem with emergency help. We go beyond that, partnering with people to get them in a home and then walking with them through financial literacy and career readiness.”
Action Ministries originated as the brainchild of the United Methodist Church (UMC), according to Allen.
“The North Georgia Conference [of the UMC] wanted to help the poor by responding to the needs in their communities, and over the years those efforts evolved into Action Ministries,” says Allen. The organization was established in 1963.
Headquartered at 1 First Street, Action Ministries/Gainesville is across the street from Chickopee United Methodist Church, which leases its building to the ministry for $1 a year. Along with UMC churches in the area, several churches of other denominations are part of Action Ministries as well.
“No matter the denomination, all are in line with the mission of the church as a whole,” says Allen. “The thought is ‘Why start a soup kitchen at your church if there’s already one in the community?’ All the churches partner to work together rather than duplicate efforts.”
Working together, the churches, through Action Ministries, support a myriad of programs, from housing the homeless to feeding the hungry. The organization offers several hunger relief programs, including Feed the Hungry and Smart Lunch/Smart Kid, a summer program providing meals to children when school’s not in session.
Churches serve and support Action Ministries on both ends. At the front end, since they are often the first point of contact when people are in need, the churches refer individuals and families to Action Ministries for assistance. On the back end, they support Action Ministries with monthly or quarterly financial donations and with volunteers.
The goal of the organization’s housing program is to move people out of homelessness and into a safe and stable living environment, according to Allen.
“Gainesville has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the state, and there are quite a few tent cities around,” says Allen. “Poverty leads to many negative issues in the family, so we work and partner with families to walk them out of their dire situations.”
Action Ministries partners with local businesses to secure housing based on the client’s income and helps with down payments and rental assistance. To keep the momentum going, the organization teaches families basic home economics and how to create and stick to a budget.
In the first five months of 2017, Action Ministries/Gainesville helped provide housing to 104 individuals and/or families, including 31 veterans, 56 HIV/AIDS patients and 15 in need of emergency housing. A grant from the Jackson EMC Foundation helped Action Ministries provide rent assistance, client assessment and case management, and financial
“The grant from the Jackson EMC Foundation helps us go further faster to break the cycle of poverty,” says Allen. “Without it, we couldn’t serve as many people as we do.”