Although Good News at Noon has chosen not to accept government funding due to their evangelistic focus, the longtime homeless shelter participated in the Department of Community Affairs survey.
Volunteers Sharon Fox and Mikayla Franklin sat at tables in the Good News dining room late Monday morning with a handful of questionnaires, awaiting the arrival of those homeless individuals who eat lunch at the ministry.
Slowly, several men watching what the two women from St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Gainesville were doing began to approach. According to Neal Bledsoe (one of the first individuals to participate in the survey) many who live on the streets have come to regard efforts by the government - even efforts as benign as a survey - with caution.
As time progressed and as what was being done became less of a perceived threat, other homeless men and women approached the two volunteers for their turns at answering the questions contained on the survey.
Good News Assistant Director Beth Oropeza said even those who have resided at Good News for many years are a part of Monday’s census. “The ones that are staying here are considered homeless…although they have shelter…they are a part of the count.”
Oropeza said Good News provides overnight accommodations for a limited number of homeless, but that number can be increased when the situation demands. “Currently we house eighteen,” she said, “but on really cold nights we open up our dining hall for extra people to stay there.”
Oropeza said in her recent experience, as the local economy has improved the number of homeless has remained constant, but that the number of employed individuals who stop by daily to take lunch has increased noticeably.
“People come in from the poultry factories surrounding us…they may have jobs but they still want help,” Oropeza explained.
As part of the survey process, Ninth District Opportunity and United Way of Hall County made an appeal to the public for items to be placed in "goody bags" for those homeless men and women who participate. Community members donated personal care items, such as shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste and wet wipes. Some businesses, such as Longstreet Cafe and Chick-Fil-A donated gift cards for hot meals.