LaGRANGE, Ga. (WRBL) – New Ventures is a local non-profit that provides individuals with skills for successful employment while providing business services to the community. Now, they are expanding the LaGrange-Troup County Homeless Coalition and creating an assessment center. 

The assessment center is a $1,000,000 project that will assess the needs of marginalized individuals and provide different resources like mental and social ones. The center will also have an emergency shelter and transitional housing where individuals can have an extended stay if they are displaced.  

“As we have realized that homeless individuals, marginalized individuals have barriers to employment and it has been a good fit for New Ventures to work with them. We’ve been able to place individuals that are homeless in new industries in LaGrange,” said Mike Wilson, the CEO of New Ventures Inc. 

New Ventures also operates the LaGrange-Troup County Warming Center for marginalized individuals every year when the temperature drops below 40 degrees in Troup County. Wilson intends to relocate the warming center from Lukken Industrial Dr. to the assessment center on Gordon Commercial Dr. this year. 

“It is much more transformative to be with than to do for sometimes. Yes we can give out money, we can give out water and food to people that are homeless and they certainly appreciate it,” said Wilson. 

People participating in the transitional housing program could stay up to six months and would be given counseling classes and budgeting classes. They would also be paid a set amount every week allowing them to save and eventually move out of the assessment center.

New Ventures paid $500,000 for the assessment center and the Callaway Foundation matched that amount, Wilson said he expects it to open in late September. 

There are 24 beds in the center and several amenities like bathrooms and a kitchen. Wilson said he intends to partner with local churches to provide meals for those staying in the center. 

9-year-old Bentlie Kusiak is one of the first community members to donate to the assessment center. He sold lemonade and snacks on S. Lewis Street throughout the summer and donated $1,600 and many items to the center. 

“I’ve been seeing a lot of people that look like they need help and definitely do need help so I decided to do something that would help them,” said Kusiak. 

Kusiak said the fundraising efforts would not have been possible without his aunt, Shara, and brother who assisted in making signs and purchasing the items to sell. 

“I felt good, I felt like I helped a lot of people and that’s better than making money. Helping is better than just money itself,” said Kusiak.