As Buckhead Christian Ministry, an organization that assists those facing homelessness, hires a president and CEO and celebrates its 30-year anniversary, it will face the challenge of supporting additional people displaced in the closure of the Peachtree-Pine Shelter in Midtown.

Keeva Kase, BCM’s president and CEO who began work Aug. 24, said they expect an increase in the visitors seeking financial assistance and necessities. The beleaguered shelter was officially closed Aug. 28 after years of controversy and questions over management, crime and disease.

From left, Cristi Wells, BCM’s chief development officer, stands with Keeva Kase, BCM’s new CEO and president, and Eloise Williams, BCM’s chief program officer, at the organization’s headquarters at 2847 Piedmont Road. (Evelyn Andrews)

“With the shelter’s closure, we most certainly expect an increase in community members seeking assistance – looking for shelter, food, water, hygiene products, and financial assistance. While BCM is a wonderful resource for those we serve, the loss of a major shelter is a community issue we all must address together,” Kase said. “Our community must strive to be one where no one is lacking for food and shelter.”

BCM also helped provide evacuees and homeless community members food, water and hygiene products during Hurricane Irma on Sept. 11.
Kase, a Georgia native, most recently worked at a free speech advocacy group in Charlottesville, Va. and previously worked in foster care in New Jersey. As the new leader of the organization, he said he hopes to expand the shelter and commission a study on the organization to find areas needing improvement.

Located at 2847 Piedmont Road, BCM provides financial assistance and necessities to people in 15 ZIP codes across northwest Atlanta and to anyone who is homeless. In 2016, BCM helped over 6,700 people through its Emergency Assistance Program; helped prevent homelessness for over 1,200 people by providing one-time assistance with rent, mortgage or utilities; and provided over 15,500 bags of groceries to hungry families.

BCM operates a thrift store on Miami Circle that provides free clothing to people in crisis and sells affordable clothing to the community.

More than 400 volunteers provide financial education, help with day-to-day operations and staff a food bank.

For Kase, those numbers are good, but they aren’t enough. Their work isn’t only about providing food, but helping people become self-sufficient through financial help and education. Kase wants to provide more of those services to help people out of homelessness and become financially stable.

“It’s not enough to say that we gave out $25,000 worth of clothes. That’s fine, that’s wonderful. It’s not enough to give out 20,000 bags of groceries.

All of our services need to lead to self-sufficiency,” Kase said.

Food awaits pickup at the nonprofit’s food bank. (Evelyn Andrews)

To find out how BCM can help more people become self-sufficient, Kase is hoping to find a firm or doctoral student willing to do an academic study on BCM.

“We need to get a strong, comprehensive understanding of our long-term impact. “We need to find out what we are doing well and what we maybe need to stop doing,” Kase said. “If we can’t figure those things out, we’re not making the best of our donors’ dollars and can’t do our best work.”

BCM was founded in 1987 by six local churches to provide emergency assistance, and, in 2001, it began offering longer-term assistance. To prevent homelessness by intervening before families lose their homes, the organization provides weekly case management meetings with a staff social worker, money management classes, and time with a volunteer financial coach to establish a household budget. BCM also offers a program that provides 12 months of rent and utilities to homeless families.

Because they consistently run out of parking and are outgrowing their space, Kase hopes to expand BCM by either enlarging its location on Piedmont Road or adding a location.

“We are at capacity here. If I want to hire one more person, they’ll have to work on the roof,” Kase said.

Another option is leaving its main building and opening smaller locations throughout Buckhead instead. If the study shows people are coming from a variety of places far away, several smaller locations may be more effective, Kase said.

“We need to find where the people we serve come from and be close to where they are,” he said.

The waiting area offers free goods from local bakeries. (Evelyn Andrews)

BCM relies on private donations and financial support from its 30 member churches. Kase said he hopes they and the community will support them during growth.

“We need the community’s support to step up and help us grow,” he said.

To increase support during expansion and improvements, Kase wants to add seven new member churches to BCM.

“Our staff and volunteers need to reach their fullest potential. We need to give them support, facilities and infrastructure they need to do that,” he said.

For more information on programs and volunteering, visit buckheadchristianministry.org.

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