On May 4, Westside Future Fund held its ninth #TransformWestsideSummit of the year.
In attendance was Tracy Woodward of Mad Housers, an Atlanta-based non-profit engaged in research and education in the area of homelessness.
Check out our Q&A with Tracy below to learn more about her plans to support the Westside community and how she sees the Summit helping her achieve that goal.
What brought you to the Transform Westside Summit? Was this your first time attending?
The Westside Summit event was highly recommended to me by Craig at the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen in Grant Park. As we are both in the business of homeless outreach here in Atlanta, I was hoping to connect with other like-minded individuals. It was my first time attending.
What was your biggest takeaway from last Friday’s Summit?
The best thing to happen was when a government employee approached me afterward to offer transitional apartments for some of my homeless clients. He and I had never met in person before that day and now are working to house some of Atlanta’s homeless!
What is your affiliation with the Historic Westside of Atlanta? Are you a resident of the Westside?
I have lived in Oakland City since 2000. My husband Nick Hess is chair of NPU-S and ran for city council (district 4) last fall so I have knocked on hundreds of doors in the Historic Westside.
Why is the revitalization of the Westside important to you?
There is such a disparity of wealth in the Westside. I can walk down one street and see beautiful homes with manicured lawns and happy college students walking to Morehouse campus. Then I walk one street over and find four families squatting in an abandoned house, afraid to contact social services for fear that they will be separated from their children. If we could attract businesses that helped the working class, daycare centers, literacy programs, job training centers, green grocers, etc. — we could utilize the people who already live here, decrease crime, and raise the standard of living.
What are you doing for the Historic Westside and what is your role in improving life for residents on the Westside?
I run a charity called Mad Housers. I build shelters for homeless adults, give them away for free, and then try and connect my clients with public social services. Although I have paid staff, I have not received a penny from my 19 years in working with this charity, and seek only to fill a housing gap that Atlanta so desperately suffers from.
How do you feel the Summits can help you in your role?
The Summit can absolutely help. We need material donations, sponsors, but most importantly we need to strengthen our relationship with the citizens of Atlanta. People fear the homeless, and until we can change that, we can only accomplish so much.
What is your hope for the Historic Westside?
My hope is that I never have to walk into another abandoned house to find a 7-year-old black boy doing his math homework in the dark, a mile from the greatest historically Black college in America.
Learn more about Mad Housers. Find them on Facebook @mad.housers.atl
Join us for our next Transform Westside Summit Friday, May 18!