The city of Atlanta has met its goal of $50 million for the Home First Initiative to end homelessness, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Wednesday.
The money will be used to build 550 units of permanent, supportive housing for those in need. The units will also be part of larger affordable housing structures.
Homelessness rates in the city have already dropped 50% in the last decade, Bottoms said, but she wants to see it eradicated completely in the next three years.
“This year, we showed that we had 3,217 homeless – which is 3,217 too many,” she said.
Southern business Ameris Bank gave the final donation to help the city reach its goal. CEO H. Palmer Proctor said participating in the cause fit well with the company’s standards and morals.
“We exist to make dreams of others come true,” Palmer said. “Whether that’s a house or an entrepreneurial effort or a dream vacation, and chronic homelessness is a threat to those dreams.”
He said if left unchecked, homelessness leads to broken dreams. Money for the initiative is being pooled from foundations, corporations and individuals.
The program, started by former Mayor Kasim Reed, also includes a separate $50 million investment from two years ago. More than half came from a $26 million Homeless Opportunity Bond. The rest was a $25 million donation from United Way of Greater Atlanta.
Before Reed left office, he said veteran homelessness in the city had been effectively ended thanks to assistance from Partners for HOME, the Atlanta Continuum of Care, U.S. Housing and Urban Development and others.
Now, the Home First Initiative is bringing together public and private organizations to create options for affordable housing in Atlanta.
Jack Hardin, co-chair of Regional Commission on Homelessness, said he is optimistic about the initiative because of the success that it has already had.
“If you can reduce something by 50%, you can eradicate it,” Hardin said.
Next steps will include initiating conversations with those in need to help steer them toward the program. Bottoms said it can be challenging to address the homeless individuals seen on the streets and coordinate efforts to effectively reach those individuals.
She said assistance from each of the partners in the initiative is needed to successfully reach every homeless person in the city. Officials said the goal is to make homelessness “rare, brief and non-reoccurring in the city of Atlanta.”