Growing Compassion: An Interview with Rob Johnson
Updated: Sep 30
As co-founder of A Home, you have a special place in its history. What made you want to embark on this endeavor? When I retired from my long 29 years at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, I had already prepared for two key “encore career” projects: doing part-time consulting with non-profits and discovering any gaps in DeKalb County services for people experiencing homelessness that I might help address.
What did you initially envision the work of A Home would be?
At first – as a totally ad hoc group of compassionate, already-very-busy people in DeKalb County – our focus was launching some winter “Cold weather shelters.” But even with that, we thought we would simply help an existing non-profit organization in adding to its efforts.
What is your background in non-profit work?
Both my wife Carolyn and I have had a 52-year history of working with non-profits and serving on non-profit boards. I also joined several professional associations to build skills in organization development and management consulting. After helping expand meals-on-wheels services in Fulton County, I was a co-founder of the Open Door Community – an intentional faith-based non-profit where Carolyn and I lived for 5 years with people experiencing homelessness. And then the Atlanta Community Food Bank - first as the project manager to launch Atlanta’s Table, then Chief Operating Officer, and finally as VP of Community Services. I began my consulting firm, Rob R Johnson Ltd. Co. in 2016.
What has been your biggest challenge in fulfilling the mission of A Home?
Like with several other non-profits I’ve helped launch, the biggest challenge was securing a volunteer Board of Directors and engaging them in following best practices for 1) defining a mission and a vision, and then realistic and measurable goals and objectives and
2) working in a HIGHLY collaborative manner within the complex world of individuals, organizations, businesses, and government entities, ALL who have a role to play in addressing the unhoused.
What accomplishments of A Home are you most proud of?
For a very new non-profit organization, I am extremely proud of the number of volunteers, financial donors, as well as a case manager who have enabled us to help over 170 individuals and families avoid slipping into homelessness, help coordinate Cold Weather Shelters, and purchase a first transitional home. And now we’re poised to help launch a much-needed Women’s Dormitory.
In one sentence, why should someone consider volunteering to support A Home?
DeKalb County’s declining pool of affordable housing – especially for the lowest-paid working people – will only increase the numbers needing our modest time, talents, and compassion.