Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
Macon New Beginnings (MNB) will soon move into a 500-square-foot office space in the CareNet facility on Bidwell Street. Bob Bourke, president of MNB, said, “We had a good, long relationship with Timber Frame Homes, [where MNB offices have been, on Phillips Street] but they have other plans for the building. And it makes sense for us to be in the same building with CareNet. Food and housing insecurity go hand in hand.”
The new office space required only minor renovation, such as new paint, before MNB could occupy the space. Primarily, volunteers for MNB, which Bourke said are “always needed,” conduct intake interviews to learn of needs. Often, volunteers are able to direct them to other services offered by such organizations as CareNet or Macon Program for Progress, for example.
MNB operates under several scriptural mandates, including Matthew 25:35-40 that includes, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me …”
While the number of people in Macon County needing homes has not necessarily increased, housing opportunities – especially affordable ones – have decreased, according to Bourke. “Homes and apartments are so difficult to come by right now,” he said. “And if we do find one, the minimum cost of a one bedroom place is around $700, and the landlords often want a security deposit and first and last month’s rent, plus there are costs for water and electricity. And costs keep going up.”
He said one positive during this past year is that the moratorium on evictions, due to the pandemic, has been ongoing and was recently extended through June. People who are renting and cannot and have not been able to pay their rents are able to stay in their dwellings. “I don’t know how landlords are making it though,” pointed out Bourke.
With another round of stimulus checks being mailed out, he is hoping people struggling with homelessness will use the funds to take care of housing, electricity, etc. However, MNB is not able to mandate how people use those funds.
MNB’s volunteers try all angles to make sure the homeless population has a roof over their heads. If in crisis, a motel room is sometimes secured temporarily.
Prevention of homelessness, however, is a goal, so Bourke encourages citizens to contact MNB whenever problems begin. More often than not, MNB will work toward keeping someone in their home or finding a place that is affordable.
Besides conducting interviews and answering phones, MNB needs volunteers to provide website support and handle other miscellaneous tasks. Anyone interested in volunteering can email email@example.com or call 828-202-3103. Plus, monetary donations are always needed to assist the homeless population in securing housing.