By Chase Miller
During the COVID era, the unhoused population in East Atlanta, like many other Atlanta neighborhoods, increased substantially. As is usually the case, this community kicked into high-gear providing food via the “Free99 Fridge” (which is sadly no longer in place) and the Community Closet at Eastside Church, which is still going strong. But many community members sought to do more. Ishita Chordia, a graduate student who lives in East Atlanta, was one of those people. “While it’s important to address these fundamental life needs, what we ultimately need to do is help the unhoused get back on their feet,” Chordia says. “We have to help them tap into vital resources that can put them back onto the path to housing.”
In 2023, the East Atlanta Community Association (EACA) made this a key priority. The EACA Outreach Committee, led by Chordia, set out four goals for 2023 related to this topic. 1) Establish a robust group of volunteers to help ensure the Eastside Closet stays stocked with food, clothing, and goods. 2) Establish a dedicated social worker program to build trust with unhoused community members and help them get access to resources. 3) Hold community training events to help the community understand how they can support the unhoused; and 4) Help contribute toward the availability of temporary housing and affordable housing where we can.
EACA is proud to say that substantial progress has been made towards these goals this year. As of October 1, they’ve officially launched the social worker program in partnership with Intown Cares, the East Atlanta Business Association (EABA), and Councilmembers Bakhtiari and Westmoreland. Intown Cares now provides a dedicated social worker, Michael Nolan, who spends 40 hours per week in East Atlanta getting to know the unhoused, developing deep relationships, and helping them understand the resources that are available. Nolan also supports them with many of the logistical hurdles to housing including getting their official documents in order and communication with key entities. To date, the program has had great success. During the month of October, Nolan helped with 25 community support requests and enrolled 10 people into the housing queue, for a total of 23 active enrollments at the moment. He also helped to secure dozens of official documents needed to help his clients successfully get through the process. Over the coming months, Nolan will continue to build relationships and help our unhoused community get access to resources.
East Atlanta is grateful to Councilmembers Bakhtiari and Westmoreland who helped secure City funding for this pilot project which they hope to replicate across other neighborhoods. Thanks also goes to the East Atlanta Strut for a generous donation of $10,000 as well as the many kindhearted community members who donated almost $13,000 in additional funding via the Strut’s fundraising campaign. This effort has shown the power of what we can do as a community when we come together to build creative solutions to tough problems. If you’d like to get involved with EACA’s Outreach efforts, please email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.