As Atlanta suffers devastating and long-term ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta Housing (AH) is calling for more partnerships with for-profit and non-profit real estate owners to help us serve the city’s vulnerable homeless population.

“The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on the distress that people experience when they don’t have a home—which is a basic necessity and should be a right in America,” says Leonard L. Adams, Jr., president and CEO of Quest Communities. At a time when many Atlanta citizens are experiencing new hardships and others are in need of a transition from group housing (where residents are at higher risk for COVID-19 transmissions), Atlanta-based developers like Quest Communities recognize that the need for quality, affordable housing is greater than ever.

Quest Communities isn’t the only developer to understand the need. In early August 2020, Dwell Communities, another long-term partner with AH, recently committed nine apartment units to provide permanent housing to those experiencing homelessness in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “AH makes it possible for Dwell to offer housing to those who are homeless or facing homelessness,” says Everett Baker, chief operations Manager at Dwell Communities. “The pandemic doesn’t change our mission, or Atlanta Housing’s mission. If anything, it intensifies it. There are more in need than ever, and we are privileged to play a role, however small, in addressing those needs.”

“Developers, especially nonprofit organizations, should consider a partnership with Atlanta Housing,” adds Katie Crippen, an associate director at Mercy Housing, a national nonprofit that has also partnered with AH to bring quality housing to those in need. “We all want to meet the same goals: to provide much-needed safe, affordable housing in Atlanta. [And] of course, we all believe affordable housing is integral to a thriving, equitable community.”

Building a thriving community is a long-held goal that many in the city’s private and public sectors support. And the mission to reduce and eliminate the city’s homelessness is top priority in that quest.  AH is proud to make ground on that objective with the early successes of our HomeFirst campaign. A coordinated effort with Atlanta Housing, Partners for Home, Invest Atlanta (IA), the United Way Regional Commission on Homelessness and other public-private partners, HomeFirst is one of our most recent initiatives aggressively aimed at creating  550 new permanent supportive housing units in an effort to serve those either at risk for homelessness or currently experiencing homelessness.

And these supportive housing initiatives don’t just benefit the recipients.  A number of studies have pointed to city-wide societal and economic advantages when homelessness is reduced. Furthermore, public and private partnership in this mission can prove valuable to property owners, too.

“Partnering with Atlanta Housing can make a project stronger and more financially sustainable, as evidenced during this pandemic,” adds Crippen. “I think partnering with Atlanta Housing—whether through an ownership partnership or just working with Atlanta Housing to receive rental subsidy—is absolutely critical during the pandemic. The properties with rental subsidy are the properties able to stay afloat during a crisis like this.”

The fight to end the city’s homelessness has been a long, consistent battle—but a worthy one. Together as a city, we have already made tremendous progress (reducing the homeless population by half in as little as ten years), but there is still more to achieve. So, AH is calling on more real estate partnerships—because with more hands in the fight we ALL can tackle homelessness through COVID-19 and beyond.

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