Georgia Emergency Shelters Take on the Shelter Challenge

Emergency shelters play a critical role in efforts to end homelessness. They provide people with a safe place to stay and help them quickly return to housing. The Alliance’s Center for Capacity Building has been focusing on learning about effective emergency shelter practices and working with various communities to help re-tool their systems.

We spent the last few months providing technical assistance to emergency shelters all over Georgia. Our goal was to help them lower barriers in order to make it easier for people to enter shelter — especially for those with nowhere else to go — and develop housing-focused services to make it easier for people to leave shelter and return to permanent housing.

And guess what? These emergency shelters have made some pretty big changes since our first meeting four months ago! They have changed their focus to ensuring that anyone seeking shelter can get in and increasing the percent of people that go to permanent housing.

Challenges? Bring them on.

Emergency shelters in Georgia have made access easier by removing waiting lists, accepting people on the same day they request shelter, and eliminating drug testing requirements. They are also helping people exit to housing quicker by developing a housing plan right away, fostering relationships with landlords in the community, and focusing all conversations with clients on housing.

That’s not to say that this shift has been easy. Finding inexpensive housing and landlords willing to rent to people with prior evictions or criminal records is a big challenge almost everywhere. But the participating shelters have told us they’ve been surprised by what hasn’t been a challenge.

Accepting clients under the influence, cutting seven pages of rules down to one, removing curfews – these things caused a lot of fear among shelter directors and staff about what might go wrong. But in the words of one shelter, as they continue to “make the gate wider” they are finding it “does not create real additional challenges.”

Housing 491 households in 90 days

We have now kicked off the #GAShelterChallenge – a 90-day push to house as many people as quickly as possible. Each of the emergency shelters set a bold goal for the number of households they would move into permanent housing before June 12. Total, the 18 shelters have a goal to help 491 individuals, families, and youth return to permanent housing in 90 days. It is ambitious, but by setting our goal high, we know we can help even more people return home.

Cheer the shelters on by tweeting #GAShelterChallenge.