Atlanta keeps homelessness rate down with more services, new funds

(CSMONITOR.COM) August 27, 2019

Recounting how she went from homeowner to homelessness brings Roxie to tears.

The loss of her job, onset of a painful chronic illness, and the death of a loved one were the factors that derailed her ability to cope. Once able-bodied, and working two jobs for a decade straight, she’s an example of how several trying twists in life can land even a hard-working American without anywhere to go.

“It was like a trickle-down effect. One thing led to another,” says Roxie, who asked that her full name not be used in this story.

Thanks to a $50 million public-private partnership, launched by a group of private donors and matched by the city of Atlanta, her days and nights without a home ended for good at the end of April.

The help came from Intown Collaborative Ministries, one of three nonprofits receiving early-stage funding from the partnership this year to move more homeless people into what’s called “permanent supportive housing.” The goal is not just a home but also the wraparound support that can help rebuild wounded lives.

So, in addition to meeting weekly with a social worker, Roxie has access to three hot meals a day, regular rides to get groceries and to the park, nightly games and other activities with staff and tenants, a pool room, and more.

On one level, it’s a story of progress here in Atlanta – where the homeless population declined every year for more than a decade through 2018.  But more than that, it may be an encouraging validation of strategies which are being embraced in similar forms nationwide, even as many cities are seeing their homeless populations grow rather than shrink.