Macon has an estimated average of 400 homeless individuals.
There are several organizations dedicated to assisting Macon’s homeless population. Daybreak is a unique program that provides specific services unavailable elsewhere. They do not offer services found in other homeless organizations of Macon, such as meals, lodging or clothing. Rather, they provide community, job connections, healthcare and education among many other services.
Daybreak is a project initiated by Depaul USA, which is a national program that establishes opportunities to help homeless people move toward an independent future. Daybreak is one of four Depaul USA projects.
Supported by 10 local church communities, Daybreak Center hosts approximately 125 people every day. An initial interview takes place when a new participant comes to the center, where a part-time social worker identifies the individual’s needs and goals. Showers, laundry facilities, telephones, Internet and employment assistance are then offered to empower and encourage each individual.
Earlier this month, the Greater Macon Sleepout was hosted to raise funds for Daybreak.The purpose of the event was to support the center financially as well as inform the Macon community about the issue of homelessness. Sponsored teams signed up to take part of the event which began with a tour of the Daybreak building and explanation of services, followed by campfire fellowship, songs and marshmallows at Central City Park. Afterward, campers settled into their tents to try and sleep in the park.
Sharon Bailey, the advisory board representative for First Baptist Church of Christ, was one of the campers. Bailey explained that the prepared camping gear (tents, sleeping bag and warm clothes) was vital to being able to stand the below-freezing night temperatures.
“Also, if you did not have friends you could trust, a sense of safety and the promise of warm grits at 7 a.m. at Daybreak, the night would have been a very frightening experience,” said Bailey.
Conversation among campers the next morning centered around a greater appreciation of the challenges homeless individuals face every day.
“I was impressed, too, with how hard the outdoor ‘sleep’ was on my body, how tired and achy I was the next morning. It would be hard to have a ‘get up and go’ attitude or energetically pursue resources and services after a night like that,” said Bailey.
More than 50 teams signed up for the Sleepout, each providing $1,000 for participating. The money raised will enable Daybreak to hire a full-time social worker.
“This will strengthen efforts to link participants with all the programs and resources they need to chart a new course,” Bailey said.
Several Mercer students currently volunteer at Daybreak.
There will be a volunteer orientation and training session on Monday, March 24, at 5 p.m. at the center.
For information on volunteering, contact Nan Eaton at [email protected]