Gillian Gansler, Board Chair at Rebecca’s Tent, spoke with the Atlanta Jewish Foundation team to share how this small but mighty nonprofit has changed nearly 2,000 lives, all from the basement of Congregation Shearith Israel.  

Rebecca’s Tent isn’t your average homeless shelter. With only 13 beds, dozens of volunteers, and a small professional staff, it has been a lifeline for women experiencing homelessness during the cold Atlanta winter months since the 1980s.  

“At our shelter, all of the women have jobs and none of them have substance abuse issues. That’s our policy. They want to help themselves, but they simply don’t make enough to be able to afford housing, which is a problem in Atlanta. Many of them landed in this situation due to health issues or escaping abusive relationships,” Gensler explains. 

One resident was working at AT&T in a call center when she suddenly began to experience vision and walking issues. After having to miss work to attend doctor appointments, she was fired. Unable to pay her rent, she had no choice but to sleep in her car. Homeless for more than a month, she was parked in a gas station parking lot when she met another homeless woman who handed her a phone number and said, “You can thank me later.” It was the phone number for Rebecca’s Tent, and she found shelter there. 

“There are so many misconceptions about women who experience homelessness, some of which are that these women are lazy, crazy, and addicted,” said Gillian. “But that’s not the case for these women who are eager to get back on their feet, reunited with their families, and into stable housing.” 

PowerHRG Atlanta Volunteers

Image above: Staff from PowerHRG Atlanta Volunteer at Rebecca’s Tent

While the shelter is only open during the fall and winter months, it offers year-round supportive programs for unhoused women. A day program provides counseling. A rapid housing program targets families and provides rental assistance. And “empowerment sessions” taught by volunteers, coaching women in essential skills like resume-writing, interview role-playing, and personal financial management.  

“These women need someone to believe in them. Being unhoused is the darkest part of their lives and they deal with immense shame and embarrassment. But we see them come out stronger on the other side — living again with their children and having stable housing.”  

Donations to Rebecca’s Tent help extend the number of days the shelter is open each year, and cover basic overhead expenses like utilities, staff support. We encourage you to make a gift to Rebecca’s Tent via your donor-advised fund.