“There was no housing here for homeless families, really of any kind,” said Executive Director Kathy Swahn. “So we created the Drake House to fill that gap in service.”
Director of Programs Christy Merritt said the nonprofit’s goal is to help single mothers without housing get back on their feet.
“We have fully furnished one and two-bedroom apartments,” she said. “We can really house families of any size.”
However, Merritt said the organization seeks to do more for families than provide temporary housing.
“They also have to be willing to be involved in our classes and our empowerment meetings,” she said. “So they can learn and make the necessary changes to increase stability.”
Drake House mothers participate in life skills classes that focus on personal budgeting and stress management. For their children, Drake House provides tutoring and decision-making courses.
Career counseling and meetings with social work staff are also part of Drake House programming.
The organization serves about 50 families a year, with the average family residing there for a little over four months.
“We have numerous referral partners within the community,” Merritt said. “School social workers are one of our main sources, as well as other nonprofits, locally, who serve low-income populations.”
Funding stems from several sources, including Fulton County, the United Way and faith-based community contributions. The organization also relies upon two family-oriented fundraising events — spring’s Drake Walk and August’s Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’ — to keep their operations up and running.
The community may be surprised by some of the Drake House residents, Swahn said.
“It would shock them to even look at the educational levels of some of the moms we serve … we’ve had advanced degree women in here, we’ve had engineers and we’ve had attorneys.”
Even after families “graduate” from the Drake House, however, both Swahn and Merritt said child care services and affordable housing remain issues.
“One of their main challenges is finding 8-to-5 employment that matches the daycare hours,” Merritt said. “And we don’t have any afterhours or weekend day care available in the community.”
Some Drake House alumnae, Swahn said, spend more than half of their income on housing costs.
“In order to live up here, in a two-bedroom apartment, you need to be making $15, $16 an hour,” Swahn said. “It’s not the mentally ill, drug-addicted, living-on-a-cot type of homelessness … its women who are struggling to make ends meet.”