The Asian American Resource Center organized as a nonprofit in 1997 to help Asian Americans navigate the language and culture of Metro Atlanta.
In the past two decades, the Center’s scope has broadened to serve not only Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans but also African-Americans, Latinos and more. The organization annually impacts 1,500 individuals from diverse ethnic communities across Gwinnett County and beyond.
Executive Director Connie Jee’s husband Henry, now deceased, started the program by teaching English in small groups to Asian newcomers to the community. Today, the Center in Duluth annually provides ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to 600 clients. “So many people of a different culture struggle financially and emotionally,” says Connie. “Our mission is to get them off the welfare system and become self-sufficient. We give them hope by teaching life skills, helping with their job search and budgeting, and providing counseling and a citizenship program.”
She calls the Resource Center a “one-stop referral agency for public assistance and community resources” as it works to enhance selfsufficiency. Its three major programs include:
Civics/ESL—provides free English literacy and civic classes to low income adults;
Benefit Referrals—helps low income families in critical need with referrals to mainstream benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, food banks, and legal services;
Rapid Re-Housing Program—provides homeless families with housing assistance and support services to transition to permanent housing.
The Jackson EMC Foundation’s grant targets the Resource Center’s Rapid Re-Housing Program, which provides clients with rental assistance for up to six months and related services for another six months as they transition into permanent living arrangements. “We have clients living in cars with babies,” says Program Manager Latoya McLennon. “Rapid Re-Housing addresses the issue of poverty by alleviating challenges that homeless families navigate due to language, cultural, social, and economic barriers.”
Individuals with children end up homeless due to employment loss, the death of a spouse, medical/mental health illness and various other reasons that lead to difficulty in paying their rent, which leads to eviction.
“Our first goal is to get clients in a home because you can’t get everything else together until you have stable housing,” says Latoya. “Support from the Jackson EMC Foundation enables the Asian American Recourse Center to help families get back on their feet.”
CLIENT IMPACT: JUKEYA
Jukeya is intelligent, poised and personable. Chat with her about the new event planning business she’s opening, and you would never imagine she and her children were homeless not too long ago.
Like numerous others in the Metro Atlanta area, the young mother of two found herself homeless when she couldn’t pay the rent. For about a month, she and her children, ages 3 and 1, led a nomadic lifestyle she wouldn’t wish on anyone.
“We stayed in hotels for a few weeks, going from one to another,” she recalls. “It was scary. I saw things I wish I’d not seen—like dirty carpets and blood on the floor. It was not an ideal situation, but it was somewhere to stay.” She recalls taking her children outside to play in hotel parking lots while she watched over them.
The Asian American Resource Center helped her get back on track by providing rental assistance for five months, which allowed Jukeya and her kids to move into an apartment. The Center also assisted her with budgeting and career planning. “It was a huge help,” says Jukeya. “We could put away money and at the end of the program, I had cash in savings.”
Jukeya has used that cash to open an event planning business and can’t picture herself ever homeless again.