DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — It's a safe place to sleep, and a chance to get warm. But for young people dealing with homelessness, the Drop-In Center off Flat Shoals Road is also a retreat from reality.
"A lot of youth coming here are literally coming off the street," Liz McGowan, operations manager of "The SPOT" Drop-In Center, explained.
The SPOT, or Supporting Persons Overcoming Troubles, is run by CHRIS 180. The center is a place where young adults, ages 16-24, who are experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness can find resources and tools to navigate through adulthood.
"If that's life skills, if that's employment or education support, we provide it," McGowan said.
There are an estimated 3,372 youth experiencing homelessness in the metro-Atlanta area, according to a survey from Georgia State University. It's a group that can be overlooked as they age out of government support or struggle with barriers around housing and employment, McGowan explained.
"Typically to get a job you need an ID. To get an ID, you need a birth certificate and a lot of our youth don’t have either," she explained. "So, it’s very difficult for youth to navigate life.'
Drop-in Center staff are dedicated to helping these young people not only survive but thrive.
"There's a lot of homeless youth in Atlanta, and a lot of people don't shed light on it," 22-year-old Jada Holmes, said. The mom spent three years homeless, living at times in Covenant House.
"For them to actually that they'll say they'll help me get on my feet and be independent, it helped a lot," she told 11Alive.
For Holmes, the center became a foot in the door to permanent housing and employment, adding "I thought I was going to be homeless forever. From signing the lease to getting the keys in my hand, I’ve never felt so happy in my life."
That step is no small achievement for her, CHRIS 180 staff and life coaches.
Still, as metro Atlanta continues to search for solutions to combat homelessness, McGowan hopes this group won’t be left out of the conversation.
She told 11Alive "everybody doesn't have that support, and that we as a society have to step in and be the parents that they didn't have."