Building Community Through Partnership
Intro by John Ahmann:
Thanks to Kathy Colbenson, President & CEO of CHRIS 180, for this week’s column. Chris 180 is a critical organization in our Westside ecosystem as we collectively work to build a community Dr. King would be proud to call home. The trauma and mental health care counseling support they provide is a must have for many residents recovering from the trauma of the deplorable living conditions/experiences often found in high poverty communities. They are also an organization practicing “the more we, the more I can do”, a foundational principle of the collective work. They are working collaboratively with not only the Westside Future Fund but also the Hollis Innovation Academy, the At-Promise Youth Center, and Quest Community Development Organization, to name just a few. On behalf of the WFF, we are grateful for the strong working partnership with Chris 180 and the get it done, compassionate approach they practice.
Building Community Through Partnership
Kathy Colbenson, LMFT President & CEO, CHRIS 180
CHRIS 180 is humbled and honored to partner on the Westside and work to realize the beloved community – a community of justice and equity; a community in which people are lifted up with dignity and respect; a community in which people can heal and flourish as the root causes of economic injustice are addressed so that the community and each person living in the City of Atlanta can thrive. CHRIS 180’s mission is to heal children, strengthen families and build community. We help children, adults and families who have experienced trauma change the direction of their lives to become more productive, self-sufficient members of the community. We do this through mental health counseling, safe homes and environments, training and real world skill building. For many years, CHRIS 180 has worked on the Westside and in communities throughout Atlanta, but we did this work as a single organization helping single youth and individual families – one youth, one family at a time. We showed up. We helped. We accessed partners for our clients. Our help provided healing and strengthened families, but it didn’t truly build community, until now.
To build a safe and resilient community, it takes a village – a village of individuals, of community members and organizational partners who work together and leverage each other’s strengths. Through the vision and investment of community leaders, the City of Atlanta, the Westside Future Fund, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and the Atlanta Police Foundation, a plan evolved that builds on community assets and the strengths and commitments of public and private partners. This broader context creates opportunities for comprehensive, coordinated approaches – opportunities to build a safe, resilient community in partnership and CHRIS 180 is all in.
At our core, CHRIS 180 is a behavioral health organization committed to helping people heal and strengthening families in ways that foster dignity and respect. We seek to understand and respond to the trauma and toxic stress that too often goes hand in hand with poverty, inequity and crime. This means the first step in healing is on us, the helpers. In order to heal, people have to feel safe so we work to create environments that are safe – physically and emotionally. We must help meet basic needs. We can’t expect people who have experienced past betrayal to trust us, so we start by proving that we are trustworthy. We listen. We show up. We are respectful and consistent. We keep coming back. We do not give up or walk away. We see the beauty, kindness and compassion that exists in the midst of the hardships faced by so many. We see the potential that seeks a pathway forward and lean in to draw it out – gently and persistently.
While we celebrate short term changes, CHRIS 180 is passionate about creating long term, sustainable change for individuals, for families and for communities. In order to accomplish this we strive to work in partnership, leveraging community assets and the strengths and talents of partners. We focus on breaking down barriers, increasing access to services and housing; and, on doing the two things we do best – providing trauma-informed behavioral health services and coordinating care. What we do helps our partners achieve better outcomes, and our partners help those we serve obtain safe housing and other essential education and skills. Ultimately, our North Star is doing whatever it takes to help build safe, resilient communities in which children can thrive.
And, through partnerships we are making a difference on the Westside. As a result of CHRIS 180’s behavioral health services and school based counseling at Hollis Innovation Academy, our work at the At-Promise Youth & Family Center, and our work with the Atlanta Homeless Continuum of Care (CoC), we are seeing an overwhelming number of legacy youth and families who are experiencing homelessness, even though many are working. This past Thanksgiving, we were proud to move four legacy residents, mothers with children, into apartments owned and rehabilitated by the Westside Future Fund on James P. Brawley Drive. Just months before, we moved a family into bridge housing in partnership with Quest Community Development, who owns the home, and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity who served as the contractor. We are proud to announce that more of these homes are in the works. Through other partnerships with the Atlanta CoC, the Atlanta Housing Authority and with help from the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF), CHRIS 180 is helping even more families. Thanks to our partners our organization can provide counseling that helps families address their trauma, begin to heal and become better equipped to make choices that enable them to successfully navigate life’s challenges within the context of stability and a safe home – something that could not have happened without the many partners.
Everyone can contribute something to make a difference. Our collective capacity to build a safe, resilient community is only limited by our resources. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us….Life’s most persistent and urgent question is; ‘What are you doing for others?’ So, I leave you with that question, slightly modified, this holiday season. What are you doing to help build a safe, resilient community in which people are given the opportunity to thrive?
Watch this video and learn more about the partnership between Westside Future Fund and CHRIS 180: