By Kristal Dixon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
Gov. Brian Kemp traveled to Cobb County Wednesday to help celebrate a charity’s milestone in its project to build a new homeless shelter in Marietta.
MUST Ministries held a groundbreaking ceremony for its $12.1 million new campus at 1260 Cobb Parkway North. The facility will include a 136-bed shelter, a health clinic, chapel and offices for clients seeking help in workforce development and training.
An existing building next to the site will be renovated to help clients who aren’t homeless, but who come to MUST for assistance with food, clothing and job skills.
Kemp said MUST’s plan to build a new shelter “just couldn’t come at a better time” because the county and state are facing a “once in a century public health crisis” that threatens lives and takes a toll on Georgia’s most vulnerable residents.
The organization’s work in Cobb, Kemp said, goes hand-in-hand with his call for state leaders to “build a house” that’s safe and secure for all Georgians.
“One that opens doors in times of need and lends a hand in times of challenge, and without question, that is exactly what MUST Ministries has been doing and they’ve been an incredible partner in those efforts,” he said.
Dr. Ike Reighard, president and CEO of MUST, said the event was a historic day for the charity, the city of Marietta and Cobb County. The groundbreaking also celebrates the numerous volunteers who donate their time to MUST’s cause, said Reighard, who is also the pastor at Piedmont Church.
“It’s all about one thing,” he said. “We’re devoted to being able to serve people.”
Reighard said the demand for services MUST provides has exploded since March when the coronavirus pandemic began spreading in Georgia. The organization typically serves about 33,000 people from March to September. This year the number has soared to 125,000 people.
During the pandemic, MUST Ministries has provided 379,000 summer meals to children in need, distributed 1.5 million pounds of food, and served more than 1,100 people in its existing 72-bed homeless shelter on Elizabeth Church Road, according to the CEO.
It has also placed 289 heads of household in hotels for temporary housing, Reighard said.
The second phase of the project calls for providing an additional 36 beds for people to use during inclement weather. Those beds could also be used by clients of a new Veterans Clinic that’s designated to open in the area of Cobb Parkway and Bells Ferry Road, Reighard said.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes said the importance of helping the homeless has been in his DNA since he was a boy growing up in Mableton. One night during the winter, Barnes said he and his father were closing the family store when they saw a homeless man walking along the railroad tracks.
Barnes said his father reopened his store and gave the man some items for a sandwich.
“That lesson that he taught me that night is something that none of us should ever forget,” Barnes said at the groundbreaking. “We have an obligation as a community for those that have fallen on bad times to take care of them.”