In 2022, the Georgia Resilience and Opportunity Fund launched the In Her Hands program, with its program partner Give Directly. It selected about 200 women living in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood to participate in a guaranteed income initiative.
Participants receive payments of $850 per month for two years. Since then, the program has expanded to Southwest Georgia and Atlanta’s College Park neighborhood.
A year ago, C. Harper was struggling to afford housing. Then she started receiving checks from the In Her Hands program. That’s when things changed for her.
“I was able to move,” Harper said. “I was basically homeless staying with somebody else, so I have my own place.”
She used the money to take both herself and her kids from homeless to housed. On top of that, Harper said the cash payments changed her career trajectory.
“I basically took a job that was less pay because I had the In Her Hands money I can depend on,” she said.
It was through a training program for new teachers.
“They pay for us to get our teacher certification,” Harper said. “So I get free teacher certification paid for.”
Now she’s a physical education teacher in the Old Fourth Ward — her community — and she says it’s a way for her to give back to the people in her neighborhood.
“The end result was I was able to get a better job,” Harper said.
Harper’s story is the kind of outcome In Her Hands organizers hope for. But for some participants, the money doesn’t go that far.
“Catching up all the fees and all the late fees and everything,” Royal said. “So really, I had to choose, you know, what to pay, who to pay.”
Tamicka Royal has lived in Old Fourth Ward for eight years. She found the In Her Hands program right after two major events in her life.
“I had just had a car accident and a homeless man attacked me,” Royal said. “And he really hurt me. So, when I say this money was God sent, it was because I couldn’t work.”
Still, the bills piled up, and even with the guaranteed income stream, Royal had to make tough decisions.
“I could have paid my rent on the apartment, but then I wouldn’t have been able to do anything,” Royal said. “I wouldn’t have had a car.”
She chose to spend the money to help pay for a new car, and now she’s facing eviction. But as she recovered from the attack and the car accident, driving literally kept the lights on.
“You know, for extra money, I’ve been Ubering; I’ve been doing Amazon packages,” she said. “You know, the car is pivotal.”
Royal said the payments from the In Her Hands program were exactly what she needed to stay afloat.
“I mean some days, some days I don’t even eat, but my bills are paid,” she said.
Helping participants save money, pay for child care, and pay bills with cash instead of through high interest loans are the main goals of the In Her Hands program.
Georgia Resilience and Opportunity Fund Executive Director Hope Wollensack said she’s looking forward to the results of this project and how they can be used nationally.
“We’re really looking forward to learning more at the one-year mark in the program and then at the conclusion of the program,” she said. “Learning how these funds and participation in this program helps folks not just in the short term, but in the long term, and how lessons learned from this program can be applicable not just for our participants but for public policy broadly.”
A new $6.2 million grant will expand the In Her Hands Program into English avenue and Vine City neighborhoods, extending stipends to 200 more women for two years.
This story comes to Fresh Take Georiga through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.