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The Extension: Combating Chemical Dependence, Homelessness in Marietta

The Extension is a community supported long-term residential recovery program for homeless men and women that serves Cobb and addresses one of the primary causes of homelessness, chemical dependence.

The Extension, previously the Marietta-Cobb Winter Shelter, is celebrating 25 years of service in Cobb County.

Of the approximately 21,000 people homeless in Georgia on a single night in January in 2009, 500 persons were counted in Cobb County, according to Tina Jones, Director of Development of The Extension, a long-term residential homelessness and substance abuse program in Marietta.

“We are the largest organization of our kind in North Georgia,” Jones said.

The program offers services for homeless men and women with addictions, including addiction counseling, family counseling, case management, medical services, sub-clinical mental health services, conflict resolution/anger management therapy, GED, job-placement and a life skills program.

“The success of the program is based on the concept of long-term residential treatment adding a ‘real life’ component of practicing newly acquired productive, responsible behaviors in the ‘real world,’” John Bremner, Director of Recovery Services, states on TheExtension.org.

On average, Extension helps 250 individuals a year in Cobb County. However, the women’s facility did not open until 2009.

1. What's the problem you are addressing? How big is this problem in Cobb?

Jones: We address homelessness and substance Abuse.  According to a 2009 study done by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, on a single night in January, approximately 21,000 people were homeless in Georgia. More than half were unsheltered or facing imminent loss of their housing; the other 43 percent were in emergency or transitional housing, or housing for victims of domestic violence.

Of that number, 500 homeless persons were counted in Cobb County. 144 people were in homes or halfway houses for drug/alcohol abuse and 126 people in hospitals or wards for drug/alcohol abuse. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated more than 200,000 state residents in 2006 needed drug rehab in Georgia but didn't get it. These numbers are probably larger since these are only those that were found during the count.

2. How did the nonprofit start?

Jones: We began by concerned citizens and local churches in 1987 as the Cobb Winter Shelter. After realizing that the main cause for chronic homelessness was substance abuse, we changed our focus and became a residential recovery program called The Extension (1995).

3. What is the greatest challenge that your clients face?

"The greatest challenge they face is staying clean and sober. It's a lifelong process."

4. What sets the organization apart from other nonprofits of its kind?

Jones: We are a licensed treatment center, licensed by the Georgia Department of Public Health. We are the largest organization of our kind in North Georgia. We do not charge a fee upon entrance.

5. Do you have plans for changes or expansion?

Jones: We just expanded in 2009 but we have long-term plans to either expand our current facilities or add more.

6. What is the most rewarding part of being a part of the nonprofit?

Jones: Seeing our alumni return with good news about how much their lives have changed since being in our program.

7. Do you charge for any of your services/programs?

Jones: Not initially. We do after they secure employment, which we help them to do.

8. Speak out. Tell our readers what you need-donations, volunteers, etc.

Jones: We always need financial support for our programs because government budget cuts affect us greatly. We also need volunteers to serve dinner, donate clothes or toiletries, help promote our programs, serve on committees.

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