Nicholas House first opened its doors in 1982. At the time, there wasn’t a single shelter in Atlanta capable of housing homeless families for more than a night and none were able to provide the long-term care and assistance to lead people back into self-sufficiency.
This lack of support for people experiencing homelessness wasn’t even being discussed as a problem in need of a solution.
The situation is somewhat different today. The limitations of the “warehouse approach” to housing the homeless are generally acknowledged, as are the needs for both long-term care and for treating the family unit as a whole. Yet very little has changed with regard to providing access to facilities that can carry through on those acknowledged truisms. In fact, today, just as in 1982, Nicholas House (NHI) is the only facility in the city of Atlanta capable of providing long-term care to homeless families, regardless of composition.
What makes Nicholas House unique?
Multiple Tracks and Custom Solutions
Our two-tiered approach to solving homelessness is unique to Atlanta. No matter what level of need or stage of homelessness a family finds themselves in, we have a program to meet their unique situation.
Our New Horizons program is a housing first model for chronically homeless families with disabilities. These families have the greatest barriers, requiring longer time-frames and more support to become self-sufficient. These families have been homeless for an extended time and face significant challenges such as mental health issues, substance abuse, and physical disability. We place families immediately into permanent support housing in apartments leased by Nicholas House – straight from street outreach teams or emergency shelters. Once families are settled in, case managers provide additional services that incorporate best practice approaches based on national research. These include harm reduction and motivational interviewing techniques.
The NHI shelter located off Boulevard Avenue in the Grant Park area provides long-term care and assistance for families with no income. This shelter has room to house 12 homeless families, which includes accommodations for a family of 10.
Our Homeless to Homes (H2H) apartment-based program is available to families with jobs who are past the need for a shelter environment but who still benefit from training, rental subsidy, time and assistance to rebuild their lives. Other shelters and agencies throughout the city rely on the H2H program to place their residents.
Our Home Again program provides initial support for homeless families with ENOUGH income to pay ongoing rent but without the larger initial funds required to obtain their own apartment. Nicholas House provides upfront support with application fees, utility and rental deposits, moving costs, initial months rent and other cost barriers to establishing housing. The family is then able to maintain housing long-term on their own based on their income.
NHI is the only shelter in the city of Atlanta capable of housing families long-term. In fact, we only accept families – creating a family atmosphere our first priority.
All residents are drug tested prior to admission, and criminal background checks are part of the admission process. Once families arrive, every effort is made to ensure this feeling of security continues.
Through an After School Program, our school-age children receive counseling, encouragement, help with homework, and a chance to foster camaraderie and a love of learning that will last a lifetime. NHI Adult Education classes do the same for their parents.
Self-sufficiency is not simply the ability to return and maintain one’s own housing. It impacts the financial, emotional, social, and physical health of all family members. We work with clients to examine these various aspects of their lives, set goals and make individual service plans to address and focus families on the changes that need to be made.
Mutual Commitment and Accountability
From their first interview to their graduation day, clients are aware of the level to which they are held responsible for progress. It is intentional, explicit and clearly communicated. Every 90-day interval, each parent must meet with Client Service staff to re-qualify for housing based upon a comprehensive review of their progress on their service plans.
All Family Members Are Clients
Just like adults, each child receives specific program attention to address their unique needs. We evaluate each child’s academic, physical, social and emotional well-being. NHI staff works with parents and children to develop programs that address their needs. Our comprehensive Youth Services program includes an After School Program as well as a summer camp for school-aged kids.
Graduating families are encouraged to maintain contact with client services staff for up two years after a family has left the program. Families have the support of and access to all resources available through the client services staff as well as the provision of emergency funds to prevent a recurrence of homelessness. The additional support assists families in cementing the gains they made while in the program so that they will never become homeless again. This program also allows NHI to gather data regarding each family’s ability to maintain safe, stable housing and earn a living wage so that long-term outcomes are documented. Nicholas House then uses this information to improve and expand its programs.
Nicholas House Inc. could not function without our volunteers. Over 6,000 individuals each year assist with every aspect of maintaining the agency and its programs.
- Improving facilities and grounds
- Tutoring and supervising our children
- Running the front office
- Presenting educational courses to residents
- Preparing meals
- Mentoring individuals