By Sandy M. Tyler

While overall homeless rates in Georgia have gone down in the last few years, the recent recession and mortgage crisis have caused the percentage of homeless families to continue to rise, with families making up 25 percent of the homeless population. To make matters worse, Georgia is ranked 49th of states in the U.S. in preparedness for the care of homeless families.

Fortunately for some of Atlanta’s homeless families Intown, the Atlanta Children’s Shelter is there to help. Founded in 1986 and located in the North Avenue Presbyterian Church, ACS provides free, quality day care and an accredited education program for some of Atlanta’s homeless children, as well as a variety of focused social services designed to break the cycle of homelessness within their families. Single mothers and their children make up the majority of the shelter’s clients with more than half of the families served suffering from a history of domestic violence.

What makes the Atlanta Children’s Shelter unique is its holistic approach to solving the issues that cause a family to become homeless in the first place, teaching sustainable skills to their clients, so they can become self-sufficient in the long term. As Tony Conway, the shelter’s Development Director puts it, “Social Services make the changes stick.”

And Atlanta Children’s Shelter delivers with a job track program that provides training and networking services to homeless parents and an after-care program that follows a homeless family for one year after they transition to permanent housing to help keep them there. As Ms. Zsamaria Griffin, a former shelter client puts it, “The name does not encompass everything they do.” In 2010, the shelter assisted 65 percent of their parent clients with finding jobs, and 100 percent of families enrolled in their after-care program remained in permanent housing for an entire year.

This year, the shelter celebrates 25 years of serving Atlanta’s homeless families with an expansion at their North Avenue facility to add an additional classroom as well as more space for family support programs. They are also expanding into Gwinnett County through Rainbow Village, which provides housing and social services for homeless families there.

On Saturday, June 11, you can join the Atlanta Children’s Shelter for a special, family-friendly 5K Run Walk in Piedmont Park to raise money for their educational and social programs. ACS is also unique in that 90 percent of the shelter’s expenses come from private donors, rather than government agencies, and all the money raised at the June 11 event will support the shelter’s mission.

If you’d like to sign up for the ACS Run Walk, donate or volunteer your time, visit atlantachildrensshelter.com to find out more.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.