Atlanta Habitat for Humanity and National Church Residences are partnering to offer additional services to Habitat’s Repair with Kindness program participants who are age 55 or older. These benefits can help them live independently and stay in their homes for life. The Repair with Kindness program helps qualified homeowners make critical home repairs that reduce health or safety hazards or improve weatherization for residents.
A National Church Residences Service Coordinator meets with homeowners identified by Habitat for Humanity and uses Care Guide to assess the needs of community seniors. This program is a great addition to what National Church Residences is doing in the building in Atlanta. This program enables us to reach those who may not live in our buildings but need help identifying services.
Many seniors prematurely enter nursing facilities because they are unaware of the services that are available to them or they have no one to assist them. Our Service Coordinator visits these residents in their homes and helps determine what each person needs. Recognizing that every person is unique, the Service Coordinator takes time to get to know the resident’s health and social needs. They then can arrange a variety of services, including Home Health, Legal Aid Referrals, Budgeting and Financial Literacy training, Emotion Support and more.
This partnership with Atlanta Habitat for Humanity allows us to extend our reach in the Greater Atlanta and surrounding communities, helping us to continue with our mission to enable seniors to stay home for life.
By LANCE CRANMERlcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org
Before it even opened its doors, the vision for Panola Gardens was a community where housing and health care services came together under one roof. But to make that vision a reality, National Church Residences needed to find the right person.
“When the state agency awarded the important tax credits to National Church Residences to build Panola Gardens, they took a leap of faith that we would commit to an enriched service environment for our residents once we built the building,” said Michelle Norris, National Church Residences’ Executive Vice President of External Affairs and Strategic Initiatives. “That vision does not come to fruition without dedication and leadership of someone on the ground once the building opened.”
The organization found that leadership in Sharon Dawson Reid, Panola Gardens’ Care Coordinator.
“Sharon is an exceptional Service Coordinator,” said Terry Allton, National Church Residences Senior Vice President of Home and Community Services. “We are blessed to have her leading this effort!”
Sharon has been a member of the staff at Panola Gardens since the facility opened its doors in March 2015.
“As a Care Coordinator what I really do is work with the residents’ mind, body and soul,” Sharon said. “It’s a person-centered approach. It’s service coordination with care coordination laid on top of it.”
Using the concept of layering the two approaches has worked well for Sharon, especially when it comes to making partnerships and getting much-needed grants to fund projects.
“I have applied for several grants through Horizon Housing Foundation and they have been most kind to Panola Gardens,” she said, noting that over $16,500 has been awarded to her building. “They provide a lot of these classes for the residents that are free because of the type of grant that I applied for. I composed the grant and layered it with what I wanted to bring to the residents.”
Sharon found funding for Tai Chi classes which provide both mental relaxation and physical exercise.
She also brought in live musicians who provide entertainment, and also a form of music therapy.
“The way I proposed that grant is that (the music) stimulated the mind. They talk about the songs and who the musician was and where they were when they remember that song,” she said. “I’m always layering. It’s multifaceted.”
Other projects Sharon secured grant money for include art classes, live plays, free dental clinics, on-site physical therapists and chiropractors, and regular visits from a registered nurse to do health screenings and personal coaching for chronic diseases and medication questions.
“Built into those grants as well, even though they’re giving us all that money, I like to ask for even more money,” she said. “I have been given a lot of gift cards randomly given to residents for participating in at least one of these services. The residents are taking their time to come.”
As part of her job requirements Sharon hosts at least two educational wellness events per month. She is also required to plan at least 12 socialization events per year – but last year she held 91 of them.
“It engages their mind. Their thinking. It gets them walking. Gets them moving,” she said. “Every time a resident is in front of me I’m giving them something that is person centered. Something for the mind, body and soul. I go overboard trying to make sure these residents are well-rounded.”
Recently, she brought in retired NBA great Terry Cummings to speak to the residents.
“The focus of his speech was hope. It leaned on the spiritual side. Where the residents are in their lives. It is so this vulnerable population does not feel lost,” Sharon said. “It helps them transition through that period, if they are a widow or widower, or if they’re transitioning from a single dwelling or from living with family. Aging is a part of life and there’s a productive way to age.”
ATLANTA – The banner read, “House the Homeless Here!”
It was a simple act of civil disobedience, meant to draw attention to Atlanta’s lack of housing for the homeless, that turned into a 16-day occupation launching a decades-long movement in Georgia’s capital city.
“Atlanta was razing buildings for sports stadiums and parking lots. Funding was going for glamorous projects instead of affordable housing,” said Terry Easton, author of the new book Raising Our Voices, Breaking the Chain, which chronicles the events surrounding the Imperial Hotel occupation that began on June 18, 1990. “This group, we call them the ‘Imperial Eight,’ they were trying to bring attention to this.”
The eight activists were from a group called People for Urban Justice (PUJ). It was part of a larger organization called Open Door Community, which provided services for the poor and homeless in Atlanta.
“They were trying to bring attention to the lack of affordable housing in Atlanta,” Easton said. “At the time there were an estimated 10,000 homeless people in the city.”
The Imperial Eight broke in to the then-abandoned century-old Imperial Hotel and hung their banner from two of the building’s highest windows in an attempt to draw attention from the media and the mayor’s office.
Today, now known at National Church Residences Commons at Imperial Hotel, the building is a permanent supportive housing site that provides housing for 90 formerly homeless residents of Atlanta.
“I think it’s really wonderful that out of this act of courage and bravery, for these folks to go in and occupy the hotel and actually get something out of it, it’s wonderful,” said Easton. “I think it’s a good lesson for people that sometimes it’s worth the cost.”
To celebrate the release of Raising Our Voices, Breaking the Chain, Easton and two members of the Imperial Eight, Eduard Loring and Murphy Davis, will make an appearance at Commons at Imperial Hotel on Saturday, December 10 from noon to 2 p.m. for a book signing, stories about the occupation and a tour of the beautifully renovated facility.
“(The book) is an authentic, powerful, moving retelling of an epic time in the history of Atlanta when the issue of homelessness was taken to another level because homeless activists and advocates said, ‘enough is enough,’ and occupied the Imperial Hotel,” said Rev. Timothy McDonald III, Pastor at the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “This occupation caused the city fathers and business community to rethink how it addressed the issue of homelessness, and, if only for a season, housing the homeless and affordable housing was on the lips of the powerful.”
By the end of the 16-day occupation nearly 300 homeless people had entered the vacant building alongside the activists, and Open Door Community had moved its morning breakfast service inside the hotel.
“Once they were all inside the activists were very clear that they wanted the homeless people to have a voice. The homeless people formed a leadership group and they called themselves the Executive Committee,” Easton said. “They’re the ones that went to the negotiating table at the end of the occupation and negotiated with the City of Atlanta.”
Mayor Maynard Jackson met with the Executive Committee and the members of PUJ to discuss what needed to be done to help the homeless in the community.
“It really forced the mayor and his staff to do something about it,” said Easton. “What PUJ wanted was 5,000 promised units of affordable housing. By the time it ended it was 3,500 that was promised. We’re still not up to that number today. It’s been a slow process, but there has been affordable housing created that has come directly from this. You don’t always get what you want, but something is better than nothing.”
Easton will have copies of his book available for purchase at the Imperial Hotel event Saturday in Atlanta. Those who wish to purchase the book elsewhere can do so for a $10 donation by contacting Easton at Terry.Easton@ung.edu.
Easton is an Associate Professor of English at the University of North Georgia. He was not a member of the Imperial Eight, but was contacted by PUJ document the history of the event.
National Church Residences currently offers more than 1,200 units of affordable senior housing and permanent supportive housing in the Atlanta metro area.
National Church Residences broke ground this week on its sixth Atlanta-area property, Panola Gardens, located in DeKalb County, Ga.
During the ground-breaking ceremony, Michelle Norris, senior vice president of business development and public policy, said, “A project really needs believers and we are so grateful to partner with so many of them.”
Panola Gardens, an affordable senior housing community, will offer on-site health care. We are partnering with DeKalb Medical Center, whose Hillandale campus is near the site, to offer medical services onsite for residents.
“We are very excited about this collaboration because it marks the first time that National Church Residences is offering health care in a community outside of Ohio,” said Ms. Norris.
Housing with health care services is National Church Residences’ vision to allow seniors to remain in their homes longer and age in place.
When completed, it will offer 84 one-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors. The building is expected to be completed in August 2014.