Summit Recap: March 1 with City of Refuge

The March 1 Summit continued to highlight Westside organizations that will benefit from the upcoming March 21 Beloved Benefit. Leading up to the fundraising event, Westside Future Fund is hosting each of the five beneficiaries as a featured presenter at the Transform Westside Summits. At the last Summit on February 15, Grove Park was featured, and this week City of Refuge Founder and CEO Bruce Deel took the Summit stage to share about their work.

Bruce Deel and his City of Refuge colleagues Dom Preyer, Corey Thomas and Jeannie Ross led a panel discussion about City of Refuge’s work in the community.

Bruce began by sharing about City of Refuge’s history and mission. Since 1997, more than 20,000 individuals have benefitted from City of Refuge, a Westside non-profit that helps residents in crisis. Bruce is also a Westside resident, living on the City of Refuge campus, located at 1300 Joseph E. Boone Blvd.

Bruce said, “We found a lot of people on the Westside who were running for their lives. And we decided if we can establish a place that… they can get 99 percent of what they need in one environment, how much faster can we accelerate their process of being in a place of independence and self sustainability?”

City of Refuge provides residents with safe and affordable housing, quality educational opportunities, and health and wellness. In recent years, the organization added a focus on vocational training and opportunities to address the area’s wage gap. City of Refuge’s Workforce Innovation Hub offers different courses teaching soft skills, hard skills and technical skills, then helps residents find job placements offering a living wage.

Also joining Bruce in a discussion about what it takes to create long-term sustainability were his colleagues Dom Preyer, Corey Thomas and Jeannie Ross. Together, they provide residents with mentorship and tools to successfully complete vocational training and go on to succeed in a job placement. City of Refuge also provides personalized mentorship to residents transitioning to civilian life, like veterans, in partnership with Veterans Molding Minds.

Q&A with City of Refuge and Summit attendees.

After the panel concluded, event attendees were invited to participate in a Q&A session. Several residents were pleased to learn more about City of Refuge, mentioning they were familiar with the name and campus but were unaware how much support the organization provided Westside residents.

One Summit attendee and Westside resident asked about City of Refuge’s new apartment buildings located 1300 Mason Turner. Opening in November 2019, the 47-unit apartments will allocate two thirds of its units to individuals with a lesser income than needed to afford market-based rent (read more on the Saporta Report: City of Refuge helps fulfill Atlanta’s quest of ‘viable housing with dignity’). The resident asked, “What I want to know is with the new apartments what is the average income of a person who would be able to get two thirds of the apartments?”

Bruce answered, “We have a firm doing a full assessment right now of what the market rate is going to be. Then the market rate, whatever it is set to be, then nobody will pay more than 60 percent of that in the affordable housing model. For example, if the market rate is $1,000, then nobody in the affordable part will pay more than $600… and nobody living in the affordable apartments will pay more than 30 percent of their income.”

Another attendee asked about how City of Refuge works with financial institutions. He said, “The reason I ask is because your people are financially challenged. One of the things I think banks are really bad about is working with people who don’t have a lot of funds. They put them in accounts that charge high fees with high credit card interest rates. It seems like they never have the chance to catch up because the banks are not helping them do that. Do you have relationships with banks, financial institutions or credits unions that may be working with you to help mitigate some of these problems?”

Bruce recognized this is a great point and answered, “It’s a huge issue. We’re six to eight months now into deep conversation about a City of Refuge Credit Union that will serve 30314 and 30318 for those who live, work or do business in those communities.” Bruce elaborated on how, “It costs a lot of money to be in poverty, so we’re addressing that…We hope in the next couple of years to have that [credit union] up and running. And by the way there hasn’t been new credit union approved in Georgia in almost 20 years, so for us to be eight months into that conversation is really good.”

In response to another resident raising concerns about partnering with City of Refuge, Bruce answered, “We’ve been in the community for 22 years and at 1300 Joseph Boone Blvd. for 16 years…We’re doing what we know to do and how we know to do it in order to have an impact on the community.” Bruce continued, “We’re going to continue to try to be really good friends and really good neighbors, and if there’s something specific we can partner with others to do we’d love to talk about it and embrace it.”

Another resident, asked Bruce, “How do you define at City of Refuge a legacy resident? What is a legacy resident you want to help?”

Bruce answered, “For us (City of Refuge), if they are individuals who have been in our community around City of Refuge for five years or more and they want to stay then we certainly want them to stay. But we also want to protect the interests of those that have been in the community for the majority of their life.” Bruce continued, “We’re all about residents living in our community staying in our community. One of the ways we can help individuals stay in our community is to help them find a higher paying job.”

Bruce gave the example of when City of Refuge purchased the property at 1300 Mason Turner. They approached the 20 family residents living there and offered to partner alongside them because City of Refuge didn’t want any family to be displaced. “We said to them, let us help you find where you want to live. If it’s still in our neighborhood, let us help you do that,” explained Bruce. “So, we assigned a full time case manager to sit down with each of the 20 families to find out what they wanted.” City of Refuge committed to helping every family, whether they wanted to stay in the community or move across the country. “We committed a minimum of $5,500 per family being displaced and we spent over $100,000 to help these 20 families be displaced with dignity.”

Bruce concluded by inviting attendees to join City of Refuge’s 5K fundraiser, the Refuge Run. “Our Refuge Run is coming up on March 23, two days after the Beloved Benefit. Starting on the City of Refuge campus with about 800 runners. It’s a lot of fun.”

Learn more about City of Refuge by visiting

Additional Summit Highlights

  • March 21 Beloved Benefit: Dan Cathy briefly spoke about the upcoming Beloved Benefit on March 21 where 100 percent of proceeds will go to organizations serving the Westside, including Westside Future Fund and City of Refuge. Hosted by AMB Group, LLC and the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the event will take place on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Carole Waddy from the Chick-fil-A Foundation encouraged everyone to support the event. “The Beloved benefit is an exciting opportunity. For those interested in volunteering or purchasing tickets to support the event, go to We’re excited about what it’s going to do for our community and the great agencies that are supporting the community.”
  • Dan Cathy Surprised by local music group, Testimony: Joining Dan Cathy on stage after devotion was local music group Testimony, who serenaded Dan with a song about Chick-fil-A in honor of his birthday. Testimony members include Idus “Fatz” Parks, Charlie Brown, and Elton “Elroy” Ruff. Read more on the Saporta Report: How I Met Charlie Brown.
  • Monthly Volunteer Day: Join us for our March Day of Service volunteering day in the Westside community day on March 16.
  • Anti-Displacement Tax Fund Deadline March 31: The deadline to apply for the 2019 Anti-Displacement Tax Fund is March 31. To date, 92 homeowners have been approved for the grant. For more information or to apply, visit

Watch the entire summit presentation below.

Transform Westside Summit – Friday, March 1, 2019

Transform Westside Summit – Friday, March 1, 2019 Featured Presenter: City of Refuge City of Refuge is one of five non-profits selected to be the inaugural beneficiaries of the Beloved Benefit, a fundraiser that will take place on March 21st, 2019 to raise visibility for and celebrate outstanding work underway to revitalize the historic Westside of Atlanta. Over the next few weeks leading up to the Beloved Benefit, we will be shining a spotlight on these community partners and their work to support Historic Westside neighborhoods. For more information on the Beloved Benefit, visit 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. 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. 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, March 1, 2019

The Summit’s morning devotion was given by Chick-fil-A Chairman and CEO Dan Cathy and his message focused on ways to be a builder for the community.