Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency at Dragon Con 2016


The Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency is excited to announce that we have been selected to be the charity partner at this year’s Dragon Con event scheduled to be held in Downtown Atlanta September 2nd – September 5th. Dragon Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe.

We will have a designated fan table throughout the weekend for attendees to stop by and learn more about ACSS!


“Super excited to be working w/ to give back to our community & help our homeless population. ” -Dragon Con.



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E-Learning to End Homelessness

Today, more than 65 homeless men and women in three different locations are finding out how to break the cycle of homelessness.  For the past 4 years, ACSS has worked diligently to serve homeless individuals with job readiness skills through our CareerWorks program.  With a capacity to serve about 450 people each year, CareerWorks has helped more than 1,000 participants secure full-time employment since its inception, but the need is greater than what we can meet within the four walls of our classroom.  This fall we are excited to take our CareerWorks program to partner facilities with CareerWorks Access, a satellite learning initiative that will allow us to help more people in need.

CareerWorks: Access is the result of almost two years of research, planning and testing by the ACSS Board of Directors and staff. The project was born from a plan developed by Leadership Atlanta to help ACSS increase program capacity without greatly increasing costs.

 “E-Learning has been used to expand educational capacity for years in education and business, but we are the first in Atlanta to use e-learning in serving the homeless” says ACSS President and CEO Dana Johnson. The adoption of distance learning technology, evident in schools and corporations across the nation, allows information to be shared far past the walls of any one organization. Currently ACSS can serve approximately 450 individuals per year in its classrooms at 100 Edgewood Avenue. With an estimated 7,000 people currently homeless in metro Atlanta, and 58% citing job loss and extended unemployment as the primary obstacle to housing, the need is great.

Currently ACSS participants come to the program through referrals from strategic partners such as Atlanta Mission, Salvation Army, City of Refuge and other shelters and programs in the city. CareerWorks: Access allows these partner agencies to offer program curriculum at their respective locations. Innovative two-way video technology allows facilitators to communicate with satellite participants through responsive audio, video, and chat functions.

In addition to the logistical and capacity needs met by this program, the on-site curriculum will allow caseworkers and instructors at partner locations to engage in the employment process, creating a more cohesive continuum of care for the participants served. Multi-site employment specialists from ACSS will assist in the job search process by guiding clients through the process and connecting them to potential employment opportunities.

In August, City of Refuge’s Eden Village and Trinity Community Ministries, began streaming one week of CareerWorks curriculum at their respective facilities. Each month additional agencies (including Atlanta Mission, Salvation Army, Covenant House and more) are being added, with 4 agencies beginning the program before the close of 2014, and an additional six will implement CareerWorks: Access in 2015.

CareerWorks proudly places more than 70% of those we serve in full-time jobs.  If capacity numbers increase as projected, this means that Atlanta’s homeless population could be reduced by almost 1,000 people, and once homeless men and women find employment, hope and new lives through our program.

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A Mother Inspiring Others

ACSS takes pride inIMG_1878 each of the men and women who make new beginnings in our programs, but it is especially significant when one of our VIPs uses his or her experience to help others.  In honor of Mother’s Day we celebrate Kathleen Binns, a woman whose experience at ACSS has influenced her entire family and who is now dedicated to serving others. 


In the early afternoon at the Boys and Girls club on Lakewood Avenue, it’s sunny and quiet as staff prepare for a stampede of children who will be coming through the doors when school lets out in just a few minutes. A delicious smell travels down the hallway, and for a moment it seems less like the institutional building of an after-school program and more like your mother’s kitchen. Kathleen Binns, a Boys and Girls Club Program Assistant, is working away in the kitchen on a special snack for “her kids.”

The special “snack” seems more like a delicious meal, sandwiches of homemade fried chicken (made with Kathleen’s secret blend of spices) with bacon, ranch, lettuce and tomato. “I don’t know what they’re getting to eat the rest of the day, and I want them to have a special treat. They need to know they’re special, that someone cares about them.” Kathleen is very passionate about her job at the Boys and Girls Club. It was not long ago that she fell on very hard times, and needed the same kind of guidance and motivation she offers to her students each day.

A mother of four grown children, Kathleen’s life has revolved around others for a very long time. Born in Washington, D.C., she spent her childhood moving around as her father’s military career moved them from state to state. She left home young and moved to Nebraska, where she had and raised her four children and lived for the next three decades.

In 2010 Kathleen left her home in Nebraska to help her brother start a business in Atlanta. Just as she was settling into life in a new city, her business opportunity with her brother fell through and she was without money and depending on relatives to take her in. Last year she turned to a local women’s shelter to start over and gain her independence. It was through this program that Kathleen was connected to ACSS and enrolled in our CareerWorks program.

“ACSS brought back skills and knowledge I had forgotten. I had a plan, but ACSS gave it legs and got me motivated.” Kathleen found her job at the Boys and Girls Club through ACSS. Her passion is to serve and empower individuals who are disadvantaged and need a new beginning. She is living on her own and pursuing dreams and goals she had long since put on hold. The program assistant position is currently paying her bills as she takes classes to complete her bachelor’s degree in international business, a pursuit she had started before she became homeless. Kathleen is just one semester away from graduating and plans to pursue her Masters as well. One day, she hopes to develop her own program similar to ACSS.

Kathleen’s new start not only helped her, it is changed the lives of her grown children. After watching his mother’s transformation, her adult son became sober and obtained a job that better supports his family. Inspired by her mother’s educational pursuits, her daughter went back to school to get her college degree as well. “This whole journey made me more aware of how much they were really watching me.” At the Boys and Girls Club Kathleen is doing work that she loves, instilling in her students the motivation that changed her life. “I want them to know that they can do great things, that they’re here for a purpose.”

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Otis Hillsman’s Mission: “To Serve Others”

Otis HillsmanOtis Hillsman has been with Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency since day one. As vice president of programs and inter-agency relations, he has helped numerous homeless men and women on the path to self-sufficiency and has set in place the tools to help many more.

Otis is retiring at the end of the year. But his ideas will live on. The man who considers his life’s mission “to serve others” shared some of those ideas in a keynote speech to graduates of ACSS Class 37.

Click on the video below to watch highlights from Otis’ speech.

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GA Gives Day: The Movement Continues

The 2nd Annual GA Gives Day was November 13, 2013.

The 2nd Annual GA Gives Day was November 13, 2013.

The second annual Georgia Gives Day officially ended at 11:59 p.m. November 13, bringing in $1,448,233 from 11,257 donations to 1,720 participating nonprofit organizations throughout the Peach State.

As one of those participating nonprofits, Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency raised $1,355 before the stroke of midnight. But it didn’t stop there. This morning, a new donor gave an additional $25 through the GA Gives Day website, which remains open for donations year-round. The movement continues.

If you were unable to join us on November 13, please take a moment to visit the ACSS GA Gives Day webpage. You’ll see the smiling face of Larry, one of our recent graduates, who has started achieving some of his most ambitious goals in life thanks to intense coaching from our professional staff, made possible by donors like you.

By giving to ACSS, you not only feel good, you make a real difference improving lives. So, keep up the great work and thank you!

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GA Gives Day 2013

GA Gives Day is November 13, 2013.

GA Gives Day is November 13, 2013.

November 13 is GA Gives Day, a collaborative effort by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits (GCN), public relations firms, advertising agencies, state agencies, businesses and participating nonprofits, including Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency.

The idea is to draw attention to the important role the Peach State’s non-profit organizations play in our lives and those of our neighbors and to encourage our fellow Georgians to support these worthy causes. Please join us and support ACSS by donating or becoming a fundraiser.


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“I’m a better man than I was the first day I came in the door at ACSS”

Thanks to your support, Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency has helped 38 more people make the transition from homelessness to employability though our 34th CareerWorks class. Participants and their families marked the happy occasion with ACSS staff, donors and volunteers in a spirited graduation ceremony.

“ACSS has provided me with an outlet to reassess my life and to reconnect with my personal core values,” said Daryl, who was elected Class 34 president by his fellow CareerWorks participants. “I feel like I’m not only better prepared for the work environment, having come through ACSS. I feel like I’m a better man than I was the first day I came in the door at ACSS.”

One of our volunteers shot this video clip of Daryl’s speech:


The ACSS CareerWorks program provides homeless individuals an intense curriculum of life skills and job-readiness training. Our participants call themselves VIPs — an acronym for Visionary Innovative Partners, indicating the culture of collaboration and accountability that permeates all of ACSS’ programs.

The importance of improving the person, in addition to career, was echoed in a keynote speech by essayist and motivational speaker Obasi A. Kitambi.

“It’s not about simply becoming something,” Kitambi said. “It’s about becoming somebody.”

Kitambi also warned graduates to be aware of the distinction between true friends who will encourage and celebrate their success in life and “people who love to hate on your greatness.”

You can watch more of his speech here:


Our graduates come from all walks of life and different circumstances. Eleven of the 38 Class 34 grads are U.S. military veterans. What they all share in common is a new sense of optimism about their careers, and about their lives.

Daryl led his fellow grads in their class affirmation: “We’re unique, confident and committed VIPs!”

You can help future ACSS classes to graduate. Donate or volunteer. And if you ever need your confidence in the human spirit restored, just attend one of our graduations.

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