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Atlanta homelessness and hunger nonprofits join forces

HOPE Atlanta MARTA Outreach (Credit: HOPE Atlanta)

By Hannah Elise Jones

Both HOPE Atlanta and Action Ministries have long served metro Atlanta residents experiencing homelessness or hunger, and now, in the face of dire need, they are joining forces. 

The two organizations have united under HOPE Atlanta’s name. CEO Jeff Smythe said the decision made “so much sense” because the organizations had similar goals and communities that they served.

“Why not join forces? What we’re already seeing is [we can] reduce that overhead, that administrative side of things, and really focus more on the dramatic need, particularly right now,” Smythe said. 

HOPE Atlanta, founded in 1900, supports people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, including specialized services for veterans and those living with HIV/AIDS. 

Action Ministries, founded in 1963, focuses on fighting food insecurity. Programs like Smart Lunch Smart Kid, Super Packs and Feed the Hungry Food Boxes distribute over 2 million meals annually throughout Georgia. 

This service is especially crucial in Georgia, where one in five children suffer from food insecurity in urban areas and one in three in rural regions, according to Action Ministries.

Although the need for homelessness and hunger prevention was prevalent before the pandemic, since COVID-19 hit, the demand for hunger relief has increased by 70 percent and tripled for housing assistance, according Smythe.

As the two organizations join forces, their individual hunger and homelessness programs will stay in effect. The newly unified HOPE Atlanta aims to assist 11,000 individuals with housing assistance or hunger relief this year. 

The organization’s Re-Housing program — which covers the down payments and rent for those experiencing homelessness — is especially crucial for homeless residents amid the pandemic. Smythe recalls this time last year when the pandemic began to disrupt life in the U.S., and upwards of 300 people a day were visiting the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for shelter.

During that time, the HOPE Atlanta team worked tirelessly to help find shelter for Atlanta’s homeless citizens and advocated for the city to help solve the problem.

Through its work with Fulton and DeKalb County and the City of Atlanta, the organization housed 500 people in permanent or temporary residences.

“I’m really proud of the team working around the clock, finding housing solutions, finding hotel solutions and just staying by so many who just felt like they had nowhere to go,” Smythe said. “That’s a critical moment, in my opinion, where we were able to really jump with both feet.”

Aside from additional stressors introduced by the pandemic, Smythe points to a lack of affordable housing, systemic racism within housing policies and stigmatization of mental health as root causes of the homelessness epidemic.

He adds that awareness of unfair housing systems is key and hopes that fellow Georgians will use their knowledge to advocate for policies that encourage prosperity and sustainable communities. 

In some ways, the pandemic has taught the general public what the folks at HOPE Atlanta already knew — no one is immune to homelessness.

“It’s sometimes easier for us to kind of vilify someone who’s experiencing homelessness, that they didn’t do the right things,” Smythe said. “When the reality is, we’re all probably one emergency away from falling into homelessness.”

Click here to learn more about volunteer and donation opportunities with HOPE Atlanta.

 

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native who recently graduated from Georgia State University, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah is excited about the opportunity to serve the City of Atlanta and its people. Hannah can be reached at [email protected]

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3 Comments

  1. Sylvia Hayes March 27, 2021 11:50 am

    My Name IS Miss Sylvia Hayes and am a great grandmother that has custody of two of my great grandkids and as of April 15 we will become homeless am 64 years old also trys to help my grand daughter who suffer with bipolar schizophrenia and for the first time in my life now I will be homeless i’ve trued reaching out to different agencies but had no luck so if anyone have any knowledge of someone or some place could be service please inbox my emailReport

    Reply
  2. Hannah Jones March 28, 2021 12:35 pm

    Hi Miss Sylvia, I would like to help. Please send me a message [email protected] and I will connect you with someone at HOPE Atlanta. You can also call them at 404-817-7070. Best wishes.Report

    Reply
  3. Amber March 28, 2021 3:48 pm

    There is also a ministry feeding and helping hundreds of families it’s called For Gods Purpose Ministry in Atlanta. They don’t get as much recognition I love seeing people get together to help feed and help those in need!Report

    Reply

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