How family reunification plays a key role in breaking the homelessness cycle

Ending homelessness, one homecoming story at a time

Program Manager Al Harrison and client Melissa

What if the only thing standing between you and a place to call home was the cost of a bus ticket? For many of the people who come to HOPE Atlanta for help, it isn’t just a bus ticket. It’s their ticket out of homelessness.

They want to get back to where they know they’ll be safe and welcome — in their home communities or with loved ones. They simply lack the means to get there. Others have been separated from children due to unforeseen circumstances and need our assistance to build a stable home environment so they can get them back.

This type of assistance, which we call reunification, has been a core service of HOPE Atlanta since the beginning. Originally founded in 1900 to assist travelers passing through Atlanta, we’re the only nonprofit providing reunification services in the City of Atlanta; last year, we facilitated 1,074 reunifications.

But the numbers don’t excite us nearly as much as stories like these:

After ending an unhealthy marriage, Melissa spent three years living from place to place, including outdoors, struggling to find employment. With no money for housing, she came to HOPE Atlanta in October of 2020 for help getting back to her son, Jerry, in Nashville. Jerry told us he would gladly welcome his mother, and when Program Manager Al Harrison gave Melissa a one-way Greyhound bus ticket, she was moved to tears.

Here’s how the reunification process works.

  1. We get to know each client as an individual — the unique challenges they face, their history, and what support systems might be available.
  2. If someone is interested in returning to their family or home community, we work to get in touch with their loved ones.
  3. After verifying that someone will be there to meet them at their destination, we cover travel accommodations. These can include bus fare or gas cards.
  4. We follow up with our clients at regular intervals to ensure they remain stably housed.

With 84% of people remaining housed after 30 days after reunification, it’s proven to be an extremely effective approach to breaking the homelessness cycle. In fact, less than 3% become homeless again after reunification.

Are you feeling moved by these homecoming stories? Want to help reunite families like these? We rely on private donations to help make this service possible. Give today and be someone’s ticket out of homelessness.