Atlanta City Council approved a $180,000 donation Tuesday to Hosea Helps for building renovations needed on a new headquarters for the charity, with the stipulation that the city will pay the contractor directly for the work.
Atlanta’s Chief Financial Officer Roosevelt Council Jr. met with Hosea Helps CEO Elisabeth Omilami last week to discuss the requirements for the donation, which will help cover renovation costs at the organization’s southwest Atlanta location.
A city spokesman said conditions were attached to the donation to ensure that public funds are handled appropriately.
“Typically, a donation like this would be considered a grant, and it is appropriate for grants to have conditions about how that money is used,” the spokesman said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It would not be good stewardship to give away public funds without terms and conditions regarding the use of those funds.”
Omilami said the city will pay the contractors directly once they receive invoices from the nonprofit. The donation will come from the city’s general fund.
“It gives the city the accountability it requires and it gives us the work that we need to have done on the building,” she said of the conditions.
The organization purchased the building on Forrest Hills Drive in the Perkerson neighborhood in 2017, and began renovations in 2018.
Omilami said the organization has been operating in three different locations for the past year, paying $10,000 per month in rent while they wait for work on the 25,000-square-foot building to be complete.
It’s now about 70% complete and is estimated to cost $2 million once it’s finished. So far, the organization has raised $1.7 million to pay contractors but needs at least $300,000 more to finish the work.
Known for giving hot meals to the homeless on holidays, the longtime Atlanta nonprofit formerly known as Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless was started in 1971 by Omilami’s father the Rev. Hosea Williams. At the time, the organization had 10 volunteers to feed needy Atlantans.
It has since morphed into an institution that focuses on providing a range of services for Atlanta residents, such as meals, medical services, voter registration, job placement. The organization helped 3,200 people at its Martin Luther King Jr. dinner Monday and delivered 2,600 meals to homes in metro Atlanta.
Omilami said the organization is in the process of developing a sustainable fundraising model for 2020.
“We need people to know that doing this work is very expensive and that it costs money,” she said.
In addition to the city’s contribution, councilmembers also donated an additional $23,500 taken from their individual discretionary funds. The councilmembers’ contribution will be earmarked to pay for programs, rather than the building fund.
Councilman Michael Julian Bond said it’s not uncommon for the city to step in and help charitable organizations in need of support.
“The city has the ability to do a donation and we’re done these types of things many times in the past over the city’s history,” he said, citing a $1 million grant given to the Atlanta Ballet in 2017.
Bond said in many cases the decision to support a nonprofit comes down to need.
“Whenever we’re taking care of an organization like this, we are by extension helping our fellow man and being our brother’s keeper, and that’s really at the core of what this is about,” he said.
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