Even as a small child, Emory Paul helped those who had less.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping the homeless. Whenever family and I went to a Braves or Falcons game, I always made my parents give me a dollar to give to the homeless,” he said. “I always noticed how they were ignored by the people in downtown Atlanta.”
That passion stayed with the Walton High School junior as he created Soul Supplies, a nonprofit that gives downtown Atlanta’s homeless population bookbags filled with supplies such as water, cleaning wipes, and deodorant. Paul, 17, created the nonprofit more than a year ago while participating in Giving Point, a Roswell-based program aimed at helping young people become engaged in their communities.
The homeless population is considered vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic as many stay in shelters or large homeless camps where it is difficult to socially distance. Atlanta has more than 3,000 homeless residents, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Testing for COVID-19 ramped up in homeless shelters and camps last month, with at least 36 residents testing positive for the disease, according to Partner for Home, a nonprofit the city created to provide services to the homeless.
Since its inception, Soul Supplies and its 50 volunteers have delivered 150 bookbags, distributing 3,000 supplies from 200 donors.
Soul Supplies has temporarily halted delivery of bookbags due to the threat of coronavirus infection, Paul said. The organization is continuing to raise money and collect supplies in preparation for a larger distribution event once the pandemic is over.
Following the pandemic, the nonprofit hopes to deliver bookbags to at least 100 downtown Atlanta homeless residents. Paul also wants to expand Soul Supplies to other schools across the nation to support homeless efforts in their communities.
“We hope to create an environment where they feel love and respected,” Paul said. “We want to humanize them. … I really want to raise awareness that this can happen to anyone.”