By Guest Columnist JIM DURRETT, executive director of the Buckhead CID and campaign chair of the Phoenix House capital campaign
Where I work – Buckhead – is a prosperous and growing part of the city of Atlanta. We have been making a lot of improvements over the years, and work hard to keep up with maintaining what we have built.
A year or so ago, my friend, Bill McGahan, approached me to pitch an idea involving a nonprofit organization – Georgia Works! – that he, and others, had recently founded. Georgia Works! could provide formerly homeless men to help us keep our district clean.
The goal of Georgia Works! is to graduate self-sufficient men from their program who can support themselves in permanent housing and to change the perception of homelessness among the general population. Men entering their program commit to remain drug free (and are tested), work 30 to 35 hours per week, end reliance on public assistance, agree to save 20 percent of their income and agree to pay for room and board.
For the past year, we have engaged two men from their program to help us address litter and graffiti within our district and could not be more pleased with this arrangement and the quality of the work we receive.
I also happen to serve on the board of another nonprofit – Project Interconnections – that, since 1988, has been working to provide permanent supportive housing to adults facing the dual challenges of homelessness and mental illness.
Today we provide beds and shelter for 466 adults where they can receive on-site supportive services, achieving dignity and self-sufficiency. Last year, we created this video to better explain the organization and its importance within our Atlanta community. Please watch it; you’ll be glad you did.
Last year, Project Interconnections, much like the Buckhead CID, began a partnership with Georgia Works! to employ three men to work in front desk and maintenance-related areas. When two of those men had completed and officially graduated from the program with Georgia Works!, Project Interconnections was excited to be able to offer full-time employment to these individuals at our Welcome House and Phoenix House properties.
To date, 49 men have graduated from the Georgia Works! program. I am so pleased that these two organizations, both working to end the effects of chronic homelessness in Atlanta and assisting individuals in reaching greater self-sufficiency, came together in this way to help each other and the people they serve!
My focus on the Project Interconnections board has been to lead the board’s effort to attract funding to rehabilitate one of its older facilities, Phoenix House. I am optimistic that we will learn later this year that we will receive precious Low Income Housing Tax Credits for this worthy project and rehabilitation will soon thereafter commence.
A respected private foundation has committed a significant grant that will allow us to achieve maximum points for an important part of our application for tax credits. As we say at Project Interconnections, hope begins with housing, and those we serve deserve good quality housing, not just a roof over their heads.
Now a shameless plug: The evening of Thursday, May 14, Project Interconnections will hold its annual silent auction fund-raising event. The event will take place at Nelson Mullins’ offices at Atlantic Station and is open to the public. I encourage you to register and attend. Our special guests – and speakers – will be President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter. Rosalynn is a Founding Member of Project Interconnections and our organization’s Honorary Chairperson. Auction items include vacation homes, golf packages, art work, restaurant certificates, Braves tickets and jewelry.
We would love to share our work with you as we raise awareness about the needs of affordable housing and mental health services, and raise funds to allow us to continue to do good work in your community. Plus, you can go home with a terrific purchase to boot.
Ultimately, the cycle of homelessness cannot be broken anywhere in Atlanta without the vision of organizations like Georgia Works! and Project Interconnections and the support of caring individuals and philanthropically-minded corporations.