Gateway Center Co-Founder Discusses Efforts To Help Unsheltered Population Amid Pandemic
Since the start of COVID-19, the number of people seeking shelter has tripled due to the closure of churches and the need to stop taking new clients at homeless shelters to restrict communal spread of COVID. Listen to Jack Hardin discuss solutions such as emergency housing at hotels, COVID-19 testing among the homeless population and the SOAR initiative.
Gateway Center: Safeguarding the Most Vulnerable
Up to 40% of Atlanta’s homeless population is at risk of contracting COVID-19. The Gateway Center has quickly responded to the pandemic with personal hygiene and social distancing protocols as well as symptom screening for all who come to and reside in its facilities. In addition, GWC has partnered with the Department of Public Health and Partners for Home to open and staff a 170-bed hotel in downtown Atlanta that is serving as an isolation center for infected individuals who do not require hospitalization but do require isolation.
“The pandemic has created a unique opportunity for the community to come together in new ways.” -Raphael Holloway
Increased testing in Atlanta’s homeless shelters has helped to identify cases of COVID-19 within the homeless population. Approximately 2000 tests have been administered in homeless shelters as of April 20th, and organizations are working with hospitals to continue to identify and help those experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.
“Our shelters were vigilant early on to get people to social distance in a very effective way.” -Partners for Home executive director Cathryn Marchman
The Gateway Center is one of the leading partners to protect those experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the outbreak, the GWC has taken preventative measures such as social distancing and instituting handwashing and cleaning protocols. Those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are sent to Grady Hospital, and after they are discharged are welcomed back to the GWC.
“No one is being discharged to the street.” -Raphael Holloway
Amanda Van Dalen, Director of Residential Services and Coordinated Entry, speaks on Public Affairs on Peach about the work being done at the Gateway Center. She discusses our five keys of success which are housing placement and stability, financial literacy, job training and placement, health and stability, and family and community.
Alejandro Dillard graduates from the Gateway Center. Alejandro started as a client at the GWC, using our programs as well as going back to technical school at age 41. He gained access to job training, medical care, and other services. Each client is given individualized care and aid to ensure that they succeed during and after their involvement at the Gateway Center.
“Don’t give up on yourself because you made the biggest step when you walked through the front door.”
The HomeFirst funds raised by the City of Atlanta and Jack Hardin in the private sector has actively helped people to end their homelessness. Because of the initiative amongst organizations like the Gateway Center to end homeless in Atlanta, people that would otherwise be homeless have access to a social worker, three meals a day, regular rides to the grocery stores and park, nightly games and other activities with staff and tenants, a pool room, and more. Amongst the cities that struggle with increases in homelessness, Atlanta has been the most determined and persistent and has distinguished itself from other cities in reducing homelessness. Since 2015, homelessness in Atlanta has been reduced by 25%.
Hoteliers in Downtown Atlanta have noticed an increase in the homeless population occupying the streets, specifically those experiencing a mental illness or substance abuse. This has led to further discussion with those pioneering the end of homelessness in Atlanta. The $50 million raised by HomeFirst and Jack Hardin will be used to develop solutions for Atlanta’s homeless population, such as building permanent supportive housing. This is an important shift in the City of Atlanta’s goal to end homelessness from providing emergency or crisis shelters to long-term, permanent housing. Despite a seemingly higher number of homelessness on the streets, there has been a decrease in the amount of unsheltered people.
The Gateway Center was featured on the Good Works Show to promote inspiring news and information. Raphael Holloway, the CEO of the GWC, explains how the GWC is partnering with other organizations and promoting unity in order to better serve those in need of aid in the metro Atlanta area. The GWC is not a shelter, but a homeless service center that provides those experiencing homelessness with a means to escape their homelessness long-term rather than provide temporary solutions.
The City of Atlanta raised $25 million through HomeFirst funds that will be administered by Invest Atlanta. Jack Hardin, the co-chair of the Regional Commission on Homelessness, raised the other $25 million in the private sector. The money raised through HomeFirst will be used for renovations, construction of affordable housing, and other facilities while the money raised through the private sector will be used for services.
With the ideas and efforts from Atlanta attorney and co-chair of the Regional Commission on Homelessness, Jack Hardin, the HomeFirst initiative has raised $50 million to aid homelessness in Atlanta. Half of the money was raised through the City’s HomeFirst funds, which will be administered by Invest Atlanta. The other half of the funds were raised by Hardin from the private sector. The city’s half will be used for hard costs like renovation and construction of affordable housing and other facilities, while the private half of the fund will be used for emergency shelters, permanent supporting shelters, rapid rehousing, and more.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms launched ATL Counts Census 2020 to ensure that every person in the city of Atlanta is included in the census. Congressman John Lewis will join Mayor Bottoms to serve as Co-Chair of ATL Counts to ensure that the most hard-to-reach populations are accounted for. The accuracy of the census is crucial to determine how much the federal government will contribute to the city’s efforts to provide the population of Atlanta with the proper resources and services.
“This is more than just a count. The Census is about the representation of each resident and ensuring our communities are reflective of the Atlanta we see every day.”
-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Jack Hardin speaks with Rose Scott on Closer Look about the history and goals of the Gateway Center.
Don’t Count Me Out, a program run by Monique James, helped Jimmy Lockett to get out of prison and start a new life. The program helped bail Lockett out of jail on Father’s Day, and after 5 months of being out of prison he has transformed his life and now has the desire to help others the same way that he was helped.
“I wanna help other brothers and sisters that may have to be out here on the street.”
Fox Bros., Jim-N-Nicks Bar-Be-Que, and Alair Homes Decatur worked together to provide a barbeque feast to The Gateway Center the day before Thanksgiving for those experiencing homelessness. Men, women, and children were all invited to enjoy the feast together. Anthony Hamilton of Alair Homes Decatur started this tradition in 2014 when he and his family decided to give back during the holiday season, a time when people are usually concerned about getting.
Annual count in 2018 shows a 14% decrease in homelessness since 2017. Homelessness among veterans and families rose slightly as well as the amount of people living on the streets rather than in shelters. However, these numbers allow those working to end homelessness to identify where the focus needs to be and how to combat this issues. Since 2015, Atlanta has seen a 30% decrease in homelessness
Listen to Raphael’s interview on The Good Works Show.
Many people experiencing homelessness take shelter at the the Airport during the night. However, the Airport began closing its doors to people without a boarding ticket between 11:00 pm and 4:30 am. This change in Airport policy has formed a strong partnership between the Airport, HOPE Atlanta, and the Gateway Center to connect those experiencing homelessness to proper services and resources. An outreach team from HOPE Atlanta started canvassing the Airport for those experiencing homelessness in hopes that they could connect them with the Gateway Center and thus the right resources.
The Gateway Center coordinates with the rest of the city to shelter those affected by the closing of Peachtree-Pine. Raphael Holloway, CEO of the GWC, has coordinated with the city to raise money to fund the upcoming needs that the city will face this winter without Peachtree-Pine.
Atlanta Attorney Jack Hardin, Co-Chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission for the Homeless and Chairman of the Gateway Homeless Center joined with Project Community Connection, Partners for Home and the Atlanta Housing Authority, helped relocate Peachtree-Pine’s homeless population. Through interviews and assessments, they were able to determine the appropriate housing and interventions for each individual and family.
The Gateway Center provided warm shelter for hundreds of men, women, and children experiencing homelessness during the cold months despite the GWC being a transitional shelter for men. Those being sheltered expressed gratitude for the warm shelter provided by the GWC. Despite being technically closed during late hours of the night, the GWC will not turn anyone away who is seeking warm shelter.