Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children

Serving Atlanta’s Most Vulnerable Population the “Green” Way

Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children

Serving Atlanta’s Most Vulnerable Population the “Green” Way

Located in the heart of Atlanta, the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children seeks to ease the burden of homelessness for women and children and to assist in establishing self-sufficiency by providing comprehensive education and supportive services. Through the Shelter’s critical needs program, women and children have access to the following:

  • Clothing closets and laundry facilities
  • Restrooms, showers and toiletry and personal hygiene items
  • Breakfasts and lunches
  • Childcare and infant care items
  • Essential medications and healthcare
  • Mail, telephone, computer and fax machines

These services the Shelter provides for their homeless guests use lots of energy—hot water showers, toilets, laundry facilities, HVAC, 40 job search and training computers, and electric/gas kitchen appliances used to prepare meals, are all operated in-mass 6 days a week for the 150-200 guests they see every day.

In an effort to reduce their operating expenses and redirect those savings into their programs, the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children applied for a Grants to Green Assessment Award in 2010. Through this assessment, they learned about the variety of ways they can improve their facility’s energy efficiency and reduce utility costs. Specific recommendations included:

  • Adding roof and wall insulation
  • Installing programmable thermostats
  • Replacing plumbing with low flow faucets and ultra-efficient toilets
  • Purchasing front-loading washing machines
  • Upgrading HVAC systems
  • Installing reduced wattage lighting and updating exit signs to LED lamps
  • Installing a timer on the hot water recirculation pump, lowering the hot water temperature and insulating hot water pipes
  • Instituting practices such as computer sleep and computer monitor power modes

If the Shelter were to implement all of these recommendations, they would save nearly $30,000 annually and receive on a return on their investment of $196,000 in just over 6 and a half years.

While the Shelter has not yet been able to apply for funding to implement some of the more costly recommendations, the Shelter has been able to institute some of the no to low cost recommendations and has seen a significant savings even without a substantial financial investment.

The recommendations the Shelter has implemented to date include:

  • Installing programmable thermostats
  • Installing low flow faucets in the kitchen
  • Purchasing commercial grade front-loading washing machines
  • Installing a timer on the hot water recirculation pump and lowering the hot water temperature
  • Instituting practices such as computer sleep and computer monitor power modes

Thanks to a different grant from the Community Foundation, the Atlanta Day Shelter was able to purchase and install the new washing machines at no cost. The Shelter spent approximately $500 of its own funds to implement the other items. With just this minimal investment, the Atlanta Day Shelter has been able to reduce their electricity costs by 21%, their gas expenses by 34% and their water costs by 24%.

It should be noted, however that as of last March, the shelter reduced its operating hours by two hours on Saturdays and by one full day per week (closed Sundays). According to estimates by shelter staff, the reduction in hours has reduced utility usage and expenses by approximately $100 per month, contributing to just a small portion of the savings.

The shelter’s former Executive Director, Ginny Nickels, feels the Grants to Green Initiative has been instrumental in making the Shelter operate more efficiently. “The information we learned from the assessment and from the Green Champion meetings has been very helpful. We’ve gotten lots of tips and suggestions about what works and what is worth doing. We wouldn’t have cut back our hours if not for Grants to Green,” said Nickels.

At the Green Champion convening held in August 2012, Nickels learned about Georgia Power’s Energy Efficiency Incentive program and has since taken advantage of their rebates for all of their new Energy Star appliances in the kitchen.

In addition to the building improvements, the assessment raised awareness of the importance of green practices among Shelter staff and clients. “After the assessment, we had a ‘come to green’ experience. Staff started reusing paper. Our security guard now goes around and makes sure every light is off before he leaves. Clients started taking shorter showers because they realized that if they want to continue using our services, we have to be able to afford to be open,” said Nickels.

Once the shelter can secure the required matching funds, it intends to apply for Implementation funding to continue to increase its efficiency, maximize its savings and limit the negative impact its services have on the environment. In the meantime, the Shelter is continuing to be proactive and make changes when and where it can.