One of the first shelters in the state of Georgia to focus on family homelessness, Nicholas House, is preparing to hold its annual fundraiser: the 2021 Nicholas House Dream Builders event, held this summer at the Georgia Aquarium.
The 2021 Nicholas House Dream Builders fundraising event will take place on Thursday, June 17, at the Georgia Aquarium in the Oceans Ballroom from noon until 1pm. Guests will learn all about the work the organization does in the community and hear firsthand testimonies from families who have received support from the organization. Another special treat will be a performance by the Nicholas House Children’s Choir, along with a video presentation about the group’s work. This year, special guest, comedian, actor and radio personality Rickey Smiley, will be on hand for the celebration.
“The annual fundraiser is an opportunity for people who are passionate about making an impact and want to make long-term partnerships to support Nicholas House with various monetary donations and volunteer opportunities,” Dennis Bowman, executive director of Nicholas House, told Georgia Voice.
For 39 years, Nicholas House has been providing help for homeless families, but Bowman said they do more than provide families with temporary shelter or support. “Our goal is to help families achieve self-sufficiency long term,” he said proudly. According to Bowman, they continue to provide support for two years after families have received services, and 90% of their families have been able to maintain their own housing after leaving the Nicholas House program.
Bowman attributes his organization’s success to its mission of addressing the root causes of their homelessness in the hopes that they never become homeless again. According to a Nicholas House press release, “37% of Georgia’s homeless are family members. On average, there are 1,100 family members, 800 of whom are children, who are homeless in Atlanta every night. The average age of a homeless person is only 9 years old.”
Nicholas House, unlike some shelters, takes in and helps LGBTQ families. “Nicholas House is unique,” Bowman said. “The number one thing about Nicholas House is we take any composition of families — single mothers with kids, single dads with kids, same sex couples with kids, large families and families with teenage boys. We’re there to assist.”
Nicholas House offers comprehensive case management, youth services, adult education and employment assistance, and a continuum of housing programs that address the needs of families at different stages of homelessness, whether they are homeless with no income or are working, but just need a little help to get into their own apartment. Last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Bowman said their need of support doubled. He recalled that with many of the service industry jobs being shut down, they added another 1,000 people who turned to Nicholas House for support from some of the services. Bowman said they were able to quickly add more case managers and help to provide rental assistance, housing, and other areas of need.
They were also able to keep the shelter open by doing what they’ve always done: constantly cleaning and disinfecting common areas. Instead of volunteers serving the food, they dropped off food and staff members served it during staggered meal services. They also provided hand sanitizer, masks and other necessary cleaning supplies to clients in apartments and educated them on the necessary steps to remain safe and COVID-19–free.
“The pandemic has done several things,” Bowman said. “It brought attention to how quickly people could be homeless. It reinforced how many people are living on the edge instead of making a living wage.”
Nicholas House’s programs are accountability-based. Upon entry into the programs, all clients identify personal goals that will help them become self-sufficient with their case manager and meet to assess their progress toward those goals every 90 days in order to re-qualify for continued participation in the program. While Nicholas House has been successful, it continues to need support. The summer’s Dream Builders event is the perfect opportunity to learn about Nicholas House and donate so that they can continue to help those in need.
Proceeds from the Dream Builders event support Nicholas House’s mission to assist families struggling with homelessness, unemployment, poverty, mental illnesses, addiction, physical challenges and more. Funds raised from past fundraisers allowed Nicholas House to respond to emergencies and opportunities involving homeless families.
People are encouraged to sign up for a Nicholas House Dream Builder Membership, which supports the ongoing maintenance of their Grant Park shelter as well as program materials and supplies for families. The giving society recognizes individuals who donate $1,000–$10,000 per year over the course of five years to the mission of Nicholas House. For as little as $83.33 per month (about $3 per day), you can help more homeless families and impact lives. Over 200 individuals and families are currently members.
People are also encouraged to volunteer. As the world begins to return to normal after the pandemic, Bowen said volunteers will be needed again in various capacities, such as working with children in after-school programs, summer programs for children, serving food, and many others.
To learn more about Nicholas House and register for the fundraiser, visit nicholashouse.org.