A men's shelter in a bustling area of Atlanta will close Wednesday after more than 30 years of service.
The board of directors filed a motion to permanently close the Journey Men’s Shelter on Nov. 15, according to Executive Director Keryl Oliver.
"The decision made by the Board was not an easy one, but it was the right one," Oliver said.
The shelter, located at 1026 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, opened in 1982 "as a mission of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church in response to the needs of homeless men" in the area, the website states. Formerly called Druid Hills Night Shelter, it began as a seasonal shelter that admitted men on a first-come first-served basis.
In recent years, though, the agency began operating year-round and offered a six-month program that provided residents with the resources to work toward independent living.
Oliver, who became executive director in January, said the main reason for the closure was a shortage of operational expenses funding.
The organization is privately funded, with primary income sources coming from partner churches, individuals, grants from the city of Atlanta, United Way and private foundations.
"While we have been incredibly grateful for the support we receive, unfortunately, a good portion of the grant money that is awarded has restrictions attached such as ‘mandatory matching’ before it can be used; or a specific designation that prevents us from applying the funds toward general operating expenses," Oliver said.
She added that many nonprofits face the challenge of "overcoming the perception that money not designated specifically for the cause or population it serves is money that is being wasted."
Oliver said the shelter operates with an annual budget of approximately $260,000 — or "the equivalent of one salary for a corporate executive" — money that had to cover the following:
- Serve 55-60 men, including: shelter, clothing, food, hot showers, electricity, Wi-Fi, laundry, MARTA cards and other resources;
- Perpetual building maintenance/repair for an aging structure;
- Supplies for the shelter, as well as office and computer supplies;
- Under-market salaries for one full-time director, one full-time shelter manager, a part-time case manager, a part-time volunteer relations manager, a part-time development consultant and an as-needed relief night manager.
Current shelter resident Austin Millwood described Journey as "the most realistic opportunity available for someone who wants to become self-sufficient again," and
said the closing of the shelter has made "a hard situation harder," according to Oliver.
As other area shelters are closing, such as nearby Open Door Community, Oliver encourages people to support shelters that are still open. She named the increase of housing costs and gentrification in the area as reasons more are at risk of losing their homes.
"Our hearts are saddened that the shelter doors are closing but those of us with a passion to help will find a way to continue to support this important mission," Oliver said.