Bringing Unhoused Services to a Gentrifying Community

Truist Foundation awarded a grant to long-time partner Project Community Connections to support the construction of affordable housing and a community center, aiding to elevate economic mobility for all.

A city gentrified

In 1996, Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, putting the city on the map. With international attention on Atlanta, the city spent millions in preparation for the Games, including building new sports venues and updating streets and sidewalks. During this time, public housing also saw an upheaval.

Public housing developments were demolished and replaced by mixed-income housing and the Olympic Village.  Following the Games, the Olympic Village was turned into student housing at Georgia State University instead of being reverted back to affordable housing for Atlanta residents. Tens of thousands people were displaced by Olympic-related demolition or were evicted from public housing. With limited housing options and unhoused service providers, many residents were forced to move to the outskirts of the city—or the streets. 

Bringing unhoused services back into the community

Noticing the dire need for unhoused services in Atlanta, Project Community Connections Inc. (PCCI) opened its doors in 1999. PCCI provides uniquely tailored wrap-around services that help to permanently rehouse individuals and families experiencing homelessness and place them in affordable places to live.

Project Community Connections Inc. opened its Resources Opportunity Center in 1999, a time when Atlanta had limited unhoused service centers due to gentrification.  

“What occurred in Atlanta over this period is the classic story of gentrification,” said Margaret Schuelke, co-CEO at PCCI. “It was important for us to bring this resource to the community to support the people who were pushed out.”

PCCI provides short- and medium-term rental assistance and supportive services tailored to the individual client’s needs, helping them obtain housing quickly and retain it by increasing their self-sufficiency. Clients are paired with case managers that link them to employment and educational opportunities, health and nutrition benefit programs, and childcare. In 2021 alone, PCCI served over 1,200 households, with 74% of its clients exiting to permanent housing.

Taking a leap of faith with the support of Truist Foundation

In 2019, PCCI decided it wanted to expand its work to offer affordable housing. Rooted in building career pathways to economic mobility, especially for historically excluded individuals, Truist Foundation awarded a $150,000 grant to PCCI to launch an affordable housing project and community center. 

Thrive Sweet Auburn will include 117 mixed-income homes for families and individuals, as well as a Community Engagement Center that will house PCCI and other nonprofits. 

“The risks to entering affordable housing are high, as it’s expensive, time-consuming, and challenging to get funding,” said Margaret. “However, we knew we wanted to play a role in supporting individuals during the beginning, middle, and end of their journeys to economic mobility. Truist Foundation was the first organization to provide support and funding for this project and having them say ‘we’ll take the risk with you’ meant everything.”

With the support of the Foundation, PCCI, in partnership with Mercy Housing Southeast, will open Thrive Sweet Auburn in December 2022. The building will include 117 mixed-income homes for families and individuals as well as a Community Engagement Center. Anyone from the community can receive the services within the Community Engagement Center, regardless of whether they are a resident. And the services are free, as long as the individual meets the criteria for being unhoused.

“At the Foundation, we’re not afraid to take risks—we’re committed to pioneering new pathways to equitable economic systems and being a source for innovative approaches,” said Lynette Bell, president of Truist Foundation. “We’re proud to support PCCI as they open up a resource in the Atlanta community that will put residents on the pathway to economic mobility.”

In the Community Engagement Center, PCCI will provide free housing counseling, advocacy, locator services, financial assistance, and case management, among other support. The center will also house other nonprofits, including First Step Staffing, Open Hand Atlanta, and Community Advanced Practice Nurses. 

A partnership aiming to create thriving communities 

Truist Foundation has been partners with PCCI for eight years, with Lynette Bell having served on the organization’s board for all eight of those years.

Thrive Sweet Auburn will open in December 2022 and above is a rendered image of what the building will look like once complete.  

“Throughout this journey, Lynette and the Foundation have been our cheerleaders, resource providers and thought partners,” said Jimiyu Evans, co-CEO at PCCI. “It’s because of their partnership that we are bringing this vision to life and providing an opportunity for so many residents to come back to the city they love.”

The first part of the building’s name, “Thrive,” is a reflection of what PCCI wants residents to feel when entering the space—a sense of hope, empowerment, and support so that they can truly thrive. This mission connects directly to Truist’s purpose, to inspire and build better lives and communities.

“The Truist Foundation is deeply committed to serving communities with humanity and grace, and that in itself is what this project is all about—creating a community where everyone has the chance to thrive,” said Jimiyu.


About Truist Foundation

The Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on leadership development, economic mobility, thriving communities and educational equity.