On weekends Brenda Rhodes guides her clients through a 10,000-square-foot warehouse full of tables, beds, sofas, mirrors and more. After picking out exactly what they want, her clients, often families with kids, stand near the loading docks and watch with satisfaction as their newly selected goods get loaded onto waiting trucks for home delivery. While this might sound like an expensive shopping spree, Rhodes is not running some designer space for the well-heeled: Over the past couple of years, she and her Marietta-based non-profit organization, Simple Needs GA, have helped hundreds of people emerge from homelessness, domestic violence and other desperate situations by giving them all the stuff they need to live with dignity in their newly obtained houses and apartments.
“A lot of people who call us don’t even have an air mattress or a couch or anything to sleep on,” Rhodes says. “Some of these people are not young, and many have kids. When they receive beds from us, this can literally mean they are no longer sleeping on the floor.”
Unfortunately, Simple Needs GA is on the verge of losing its mission-critical warehouse, which was donated by a local graphics company but now must be emptied to make way for a paying tenant. According to Rhodes, the group has to find a new space by no later than May 15 or it will no longer be able to help furnish peoples’ new houses and apartments. Whatever space the group finds needs to be at least 6,000 square feet, Rhodes says.
If that proves impossible, it won’t spell the end for Simple Needs GA. Founded by Rhodes in 2008, the group also brings duffel bags full of hygiene items such as deodorant, soap and shampoo to people who are staying temporarily at a local emergency shelter. And Rhodes and her volunteers give tents, sleeping bags and toiletries to people living in the woods of Cobb County. So far, more than 3,000 people have received the duffel bags, Rhodes says, and about 200 have received the tents and sleeping bags.
Nonetheless, the loss of the warehouse would be a pretty big blow to the group, which fills a special niche by focusing on something other than food, clothing, shelter and job training. After all, many of the families and individuals helped by SNGA have no possessions to speak of, Rhodes says.
“Many times when you flee domestic violence, for example, you leave with nothing. When one woman who was fleeing domestic violence came in to pick up her furniture, she walked over to the shelving area of small items and was talking quietly to herself,” Rhodes recalls. “I wasn’t that near her, but I could hear. She was saying over and over again ‘This is such a blessing. This is such a blessing.’ Then she said, not to anyone in particular, ‘I can stop crying now.’ In those moments, you know you’re making a difference.”
Rhodes is trying to get the word out about the group’s need for storage space, in hopes that some promising leads will turn up. If something comes to mind, she can be reached at [email protected].