Women and children make up more than 40% of Atlanta’s homeless population, contributing to the more than 10,000 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night.
Finding a safe place for these families to stay can be a challenge, and even more so if the family includes a son age 12 or older. In Atlanta, these boys are typically required to stay in an all men’s facility.
From a need to help keep families intact, and to offer them a stable living environment where they can get back on their feet, The Drake House was born. Founded in 2004, The Drake House is a 16-unit housing program for single mothers who come from North Fulton communities.
The home is located on a MARTA line, allowing kids easy access to their current schools, and provides adequate space for the whole family to stay.
Programming at the house includes mentorship, tutoring, and support for the kids and the mothers. Mothers must be employable or already employed to be eligible. They must live in the community, and the kids must be enrolled in school in the North Fulton area.
Housing must also be the number one priority for the mothers. Once admitted into the house, they work with social workers to outline a personal empowerment plan, and then are held accountable to their goals. Every Monday, mothers are required to attend a life-skills class, which covers a variety of topics like prioritizing needs over wants, household budgeting, making better decisions, and boundary setting.
“We give them the tools and education to help them better manage not only their money, but their lives,” said Kathy Swahn, Executive Director of The Drake House.
Mothers are also required to meet every week with their social worker and a career coach. The Drake House partners with local businesses to provide employment opportunities, and the women must save the money they would otherwise be paying in rent and food costs (all provided at the house).
“That’s a critical goal so they have a nest egg when they graduate from our program to hopefully have enough for a deposit for next-step housing,” Swahn said.
The nonprofit recently acquired another property of 16 units for mothers who have gone through the full program to transition after living in the Drake House. Here, they can pay under-market rent, and must set up utilities in their own name and establish some good credit. This gives families the opportunity for up to 24-months of under-market rent housing and additional services.
Swahn said these services provided are crucial for helping moms and families get back on their feet. “When the moms finally get into the Drake House and unpack their bags, they can take a breath,” she said. “They can sit down with the trained staff, and chip away at layers and layers of trauma.”
“We sit down and say, ‘let’s rediscover your strengths and build your confidence,’” she added. The job readiness programs at the house include resume development, mock interviews, outfitting for work, and babysitters onsite to watch the kids while the mothers are in training. With an average stay of 142, moms who go through the programming see a 45-60% increase in monthly wages.
To learn more about the organization, including details on their upcoming Miss Mary’s Ice Cream fundraiser on August 26th, visit www.thedrakehouse.org.