$800,000 grant will help Atlanta Red Shield Services fight homelessness

By: David Ibata

A grant of more than $800,000 will help The Salvation Army fight homelessness in Atlanta, Georgia, by providing financial assistance to families facing hardship, eviction and utility shut-offs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Red Shield Services of The Salvation Army Atlanta Metropolitan Area Command recently was awarded a $816,796 grant by the city of Atlanta, which is distributing to social service providers some of the $88.5 million it received under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Red Shield Services operates a downtown homeless shelter with 320 beds.

“Almost half a million of the grant will go toward homelessness prevention – for rent and utility assistance to keep people from losing their homes,” said Sergeant Janeane Schmidt, Red Shield Services director. The rest of the funds will pay the salaries of newly hired Red Shield case workers and aides, and for increased operating expenses attributable to the coronavirus crisis.

Six new staff members will be hired. Two employees will work on homelessness prevention, one case worker will help people find permanent housing, and one case worker will handle job placements. Two more case workers, both part-time, will assist at the shelter.

“We were maxed out for a long time,” as Red Shield and other shelters went from nighttime-only facilities to 24-hour operations to get the medically vulnerable homeless population off the streets, Sergeant Schmidt said. “Our shelter costs also increased quite a bit because we went from two meals a day to three for more than 300 people. And imagine what our water bill was with people here all day.”

Normal shelter hours returned at the end of June for individual clients, and on the second weekend of July for families. The nearby Salvation Army Fuqua Boys & Girls Club has reopened, giving children a safe place to go during the day.

Red Shield Services is now working on an online system that will let people apply and upload documents for emergency financial assistance. “That way, we can process them without having them come into the office,” Sergeant Schmidt said.

Thanks to the CARES funds, those who still have housing “will be blessed by not being evicted or having their power shut off … all those people who suddenly have been hit with two or three months’ of bills and no income.”