Having The Vision
Updated: Oct 31
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 moved to downtown Decatur in 2016, I noticed dozens of people experiencing homelessness. Quite frankly, every time I passed by these vulnerable people, I was stunned, and I felt a mix of sadness and frustration that there was nothing I could do to make a substantial difference in their lives.I wondered what was wrong with our society that we would let human beings, including children, live in such precarious situations. Being a family therapist and having volunteered with the unhoused in Toronto, I knew that most of them were doing the best they could considering their backgrounds. It is a known fact that many chronically unhoused people have suffered trauma, including sexual abuse, in their pasts, making navigating life’s challenges extremely difficult. It is also a fact that the systematic closing of psychiatric hospitals over the last 70 years, with very little to replace them, has relegated people to the streets as their place of residence.
What did you initially envision the work of A Home would be?
Luckily for me, I soon met a kindred spirit in Rob Johnson and we decided to explore ways we could help. To that end, we spent a few months meeting with the key players involved in homelessness in DeKalb County and then formed our Board.
Our mission, which continues to this day, is the provision of cold weather shelters/assistance and transitional or permanent housing. It was clear that there just wasn’t enough money from HUD–the Department of Housing and Urban Development—to house our at-risk neighbors.
We started with cold weather shelters because they weren’t cost-prohibitive for our newly formed organization. We weren’t providing permanent housing, but we could at least keep people from freezing. As time went on and people heard about us and we raised more money, we started paying start-up costs so that people could move into their own apartment or rooming house. These folks were the lucky ones because they made enough money to be able to afford a place once they were helped with first-month rent and deposit. Over the last three years, we have housed almost 200 people.
What has been your biggest challenge in fulfilling the mission of A Home?
Although we take pride in the number of people we’ve helped to house, the reality is that there are hundreds of people who don’t make enough money to even afford a room. This is the reason we raised money to buy our Snapfinger house. Because of the generous support we received, our expenses with the house are low and the three people who live there only pay 35% of their income in rent. (Three is the number of unrelated people who are allowed to share a house in DeKalb.)
Which of A Home’s accomplishments make you especially proud?
Besides the house, which I hope to see many more of, I believe our biggest accomplishment will be the dormitory for 10-15 single women that we are currently planning. There are numerous obstacles to such a project, but with the work of a dedicated committee and our Board, we have found a wonderful and affordable space in a church in Stone Mountain, and we are in talks with agencies about their capacity to oversee the operations. A Home For Everyone In DeKalb will work hard to help finance it.
In one sentence, why should someone consider volunteering to support A Home?
If you, like me, believe that everyone deserves a place to call home and want to be a part of the solution, I’d encourage you to take a look at some of our programs at: ahomeforeveryoneindekalb.org.