Thriving for Six Months: Here’s What We Learned So Far
Dignity. From the residents who now have a place to call home, to the professionals supporting them, Thrive Sweet Auburn has established a foundation of dignity that ripples through 302 Decatur Street. For the staff, tenants and residents at Thrive, the new building offers an opportunity to work and live in a respectable, professional environment that propels our work forward.
Our mission is to permanently rehouse individuals and families experiencing homelessness into decent, affordable places to live and thrive. We aim to make homelessness a rare, brief and singular experience, and there’s no doubt that providing affordable housing is essential to accomplishing that. In April 2023, PCCI and key partners Mercy Housing Southeast hosted the Thrive Sweet Auburn grand opening, along with an incredible list of partners, community constituents and contributors.
Today, Thrive Sweet Auburn is home to 170 individuals – 40% of which are children. We were not expecting that – and it highlights the importance of our broader work, such as a partnership with the Fulton County Division of Family & Children Services (DFACS). PCCI is offering early intervention services through the Fulton County DFACS with the goal of preventing families from entering the child welfare system and reunifying children in foster care by providing housing supports. It is inspiring to see the resiliency that many families demonstrate, and their determination to stay together through challenging times such as homelessness.
Tenant partners such as First Step Housing find dignity in offering employment services and contract discussions out of professional offices where the furniture matches and buckets to catch water are no longer required. It lifts clients who are being served in a respectable environment that conveys hope and potential for their future. A more sophisticated environment makes it a lot easier for donors and partners to see this promise and invest in their vision. To date, more than 1,200 have gone through orientation at First Step’s new offices, with 584 individuals receiving a paycheck through full-time employment.
“First Step is excited to be part of this groundbreaking partnership and housing development,” said First Step CEO Amelia Nickerson. “The co-location gives all partners the opportunity to better and wholistically serve our clients and the community.”
Any time people come together in new ways, there is a period of adjustment. But one thing is certain: relationships are critical to building community. The Thrive property management team is finding opportunities to build community within our residents through events and activities to bring them together. We hosted our first picnic for residents – the first of many to help our residents begin to form new relationships with each other. Open Hand Atlanta has provided nutrition classes along with Nutritional Market baskets to 24 residents with more deliveries on the horizon. After-hours security is providing peace of mind for residents and tenants, and meet-and-greets with local law enforcement and residents help foster trust and an overall sense of security, establishing a sense of partnership among the community.
Togetherness has been another wonderful virtue of our new building, bolstering communications and driving group gatherings for members of the PCCI team – and our partners – to work together. We can put our heads together to face challenges and explore solutions – and exchange a friendly “good morning” over coffee. Our morale is higher, and relationships are stronger than ever – and that serves our mission tremendously well and helps us navigate the numerous questions we field from other organizations looking to replicate the Thrive Sweet Auburn model. The momentum to end homelessness – in Atlanta and beyond – propels us forward — and we are excited to share the successes and lessons learned at Thrive to help our city and partners achieve that goal. And it must be said that we could not have accomplished all this without partners and the generous contributions of donors. As we continue our services and expand our reach, contributions to our operational funding ensure we can recruit and retain staff to serve the community, raise awareness of these vital services, and invest in innovative approaches like Thrive Sweet Auburn to end homelessness.