The Aug. 16 Transform Westside Summit featured a panel with several members of the Quest Community Development Organization team: Leonard L. Adams Jr., founder and CEO; Shawn Coste Roman, property development director; Sha’Nelle High, program services manager; Kimya Trotter, benefits specialist supervisor; and Ken Prince, COO. Adams began the presentation by projecting an image on the screen – an image of North Avenue.
He asked Summit attendees to share one word that comes to mind upon seeing the photo. Audience members texted in their words, which began populating on the screen behind Adams into a word cloud – words like growth, hope, progress and change, as well as words like emptiness and depression. The image elicited a wide range of responses and emotions, demonstrating the complex nature of development on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. Several audience members explained their responses, creating an engaging dialogue that set the stage for what Adams and his team planned to share about Quest’s projects and the ways in which Adams and his team are investing in the Westside.
Following this exercise, the panel shared an update on the Quest West 2020 Strategic Plan and outlined ways in which nearly $40 million in development projects are at work on the Westside.
From affordable and supportive housing projects to resident retention initiatives, Quest is actively enabling members of the Westside to thrive as a beloved community through social self-sufficiency programs, financial services and workforce development.
Quest projects include:
- The Quest Nonprofit Center for Change – a 30,000-square-foot building under construction that will house Quest and offer a variety of services to the Westside
- Quest Commons West – 53 affordable multi-family housing units in Vine City
- The Residences at Holly Hills – 40 affordable housing units with energy-efficient design for seniors
- Quest Village at Dalvigney – 12 one- and two-bedroom affordable housing units in English Avenue
- Quest Legacy Homes – seven affordable single-family homes in English Avenue
- Transitional housing
“Nineteen years ago, Quest started with a single-family home to house individuals who were homeless or living with a disability,” Adams said. “Today, here on Rock Street – a street that was hard-hit, very unsafe – we’ve been able to redevelop this entire city block. Now you can walk down this street, and people call it a diamond in the rough or an oasis in Vine City.”
Before diving into the specifics of Quest’s services and approach, Adams made it a point to demonstrate the immense time, talent, resources and support needed to achieve the level of impact that Quest has. Reading out the names of companies, organizations and even individuals, Adams asked everyone who had worked with and supported Quest to stand. As nearly half the room slowly rose to its feet, Adams made a poignant statement about progress: it takes a village.
“These are our partners,” said Adams. “This is how we make this happen. Everyone standing is touching these projects – it’s not us just doing it alone.”
Adams then laid out the four focus areas at Quest before passing the microphone to his staff, who provided insight into each area of the organization, including:
- Property Development: Quest targets blighted and underserved areas and relies on its partners for the funding needed to finance the projects. The organization works closely with architects, engineers and contractors throughout the building process and engages with the community to collaborate on the best design and vision for the property. “We take a lot of pride in being able to deliver quality housing – not just affordable housing – so [residents] won’t be displaced,” Coste Roman said.
- Property Management: With a portfolio of commercial and residential properties, Quest accesses government funding and philanthropic sources to keep properties affordable. With a full-service, certified maintenance department, Quest provides support services for its commercial and residential properties, as well as its single-family homes, to care for these assets.
- Support Management: Quest offers an array of social services, including permanent supportive housing, case management and community resources. As an organization, Quest empowers residents to fulfill their dreams of being safe, secure and housed. As one of the best providers in metro Atlanta, Quest has successfully assisted approximately 8,000 people since it began this work 20 years ago. With an open-door policy for case management and a dedication to this housing-first model, Quest has helped countless residents facing homelessness – 90% of whom have not returned to homelessness.
- Financial Services: For residents who have been diagnosed with a condition that prevents them from being able to manage their own funds and finances, the Quest team offers financial managers to assist. “Our job is to make sure our clients’ needs are taken care of within a financial context. That means making sure their bills are paid every month on time, rent is paid on time every month and money is budgeted for their food, clothing and sometimes medical expenses,” Trotter said.
The work being done through Quest and its many partners remains a holistic approach to investment in the Westside, according to Adams.
“With the mantra ‘live, work, serve,’ we want people to live affordably, we want people to make and earn a decent wage, and then we want people to give back – understand the value of giving back early and giving back to their communities,” Adams said.
Quest is located in Atlanta’s Westside, and according to its website, it “develops socially equitable housing and provides needs-based community services to enhance the quality of life for underserved individuals and families.”
Opening Devotion with Imam Mansoor Sabree
Imam Mansoor Sabree, director for Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) began the Summit by sharing an inspirational message about faith and community.
“We believe that through community life, we have an opportunity to work together and achieve so much more for our communities,” said Sabree.
He outlined three core values that anchor the work of IMAN and can be applied to all intentional community efforts:
- Remain spiritually rooted. Connectivity and spirituality allow us to see the world as it is while exposing our hearts and minds to where the world should be, Sabree said. He encouraged attendees not to be discouraged by the challenges of the world, but to be motivated by the possibility the Creator has put in each one of us.
- Be led by those who are most impacted. Sharing an example from the IMAN Green Reentry Program, Sabree described the importance of opportunities like those that allow formerly incarcerated men and women to stand on the front lines of the transformation happening in the community.
- Seeking the value of working with others in service. “There is nothing more powerful than to get up and serve others – it’s a reward for oneself,” Sabree said. He reminded attendees service or charity is any act of kindness, no matter how big or small, and those acts of service are then compounded, making even those who are serving feel good. “There is a joy that the Creator put in each and every one of us to love and embrace good,” he said.
Additional Summit Highlights
- The next Westside Future Fund (WFF) Volunteer Day of Service will be on Saturday, Aug. 24. Volunteers will help with community cleanup, house painting, general and heavy landscaping and clearing of overgrowth at a Westside home and surrounding area. Register here.
- Free Shuttle to the Summit: The Cute Shuttle offers free, scheduled pickups on the Westside to help residents get to and from the Summit events on the first and third Fridays of the month. The shuttle makes scheduled stops at two locations: the At-Promise Center (740 Cameron Madison Alexander Blvd. NW) and Hollis Innovation Academy (225 James Brawley Drive, NW). Passenger pickups at these locations occur every 10 minutes between 6:50 and 7:30 a.m. Passenger drop-offs from the Gathering Spot occur every 10 minutes between 9 and 9:30 a.m. No registration is required to ride the shuttle. Simply show up at one of the two pickup locations to ride. Learn more.
- The Westside Land Use Framework Plan will be codified by year-end.
- Those seeking affordable housing opportunities on the Westside are invited to contact WFF about its available rental units.
- Next Summit Date: Friday, Sept. 6. Register here.
- The Home Depot Gift Card Raffle: Summit attendees who are current Westside residents or who work for a nonprofit serving Westside neighborhoods have a chance to win a $50 gift card from The Home Depot at each Summit event. Congratulations to Davale Davis, the Aug. 16 winner, pictured below.
Watch the Facebook livestream below.
Transform Westside Summit – Friday, August 2, 2019
Transform Westside Summit – Friday, August 2, 2019 About the Transform Westside Summit: Westside Future Fund’s Transform Westside Summit is held on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month and is free and open to the public. Our audience includes a diverse group of stakeholders. Longtime neighborhood residents, community and faith leaders, heads of non-profits and corporate executives come together to share success stories and discuss challenges that currently affect our Westside neighborhoods. Doors open at 7:00 a.m. and meetings begin promptly at 7:15 a.m. with morning devotion,* presented by a member of the historic Westside community, and complimentary breakfast, provided by Summit sponsor Chick-fil-A. Special Event: Atlanta Technical College Enrollment Atlanta Technical College (ATC) is bringing its Wednesday Works recruiting and enrollment event to the Summit. Typically hosted on Wednesdays on the ATC campus, representatives will be on site during the Friday morning Summit sharing about how prospective students can get started at Atlanta Tech. Those who apply at the Summit will have their ATC application fee waived. Take a Free Shuttle to the Summit A free shuttle will do scheduled pickups on the Westside to help you get to the Summit. Summit Shuttle Pickup Locations: At-Promise Center (740 Cameron Madison Alexander Boulevard, NW); Hollis Innovation Academy (225 James P. Brawley Drive, NW). Pickup Times: 6:50 AM – 7AM. Many in our community are driven by their spiritual faith to participate in the Westside revitalization effort. The time at the beginning of our meetings is an opportunity to share various inspirational reflections. While the speakers may articulate their personal faith, it is meant to be inclusive, inspiring and meaningful. All are welcome.
Posted by Westside Future Fund on Friday, August 2, 2019