Now open for its 35th season, Rebecca’s Tent women’s shelter in Morningside has a new name to honor its founders.
It was a remarkably cold winter in 1983 when Helen and Frank Spiegel, members of Congregation Shearith Israel, established a seasonal shelter for homeless women.
Both German immigrants, Helen’s family escaped Kristallnacht thanks to the generosity of neighbors who helped them relocate to Boston, Mass. At age 17, Frank was sent to the United States by his family and relocated to Georgia through The Jewish Agency in order to learn a trade.
When they died, Helen in 2017 and Frank in May 2018, the Spiegel children, Elizabeth, Mark and Walter, provided substantial support to the recently-renamed Rebecca’s Tent Spiegel Women’s Shelter at Shearith Israel.
“They were our light and the reason we got this shelter off the ground,” said Gillian Gansler, the shelter’s executive committee chair.
Rebecca’s Tent is located in the quiet part of Morningside, steps away from busy N. Highland Avenue.
Executive Director Tasho Wesley said, “For over 30 years, we have seen the need for shelter, hot meals, job coaching and MARTA cards.”
More than 1,000 women have received help from Rebecca’s Tent, a night shelter that accepts only working women or those who are in job training.
Open from November to March, from evening to early morning seven days a week, Rebecca’s Tent offers a safe place to sleep, freshly prepared meals, shower and laundry facilities, and toiletries. Year-round, women can access job training, counseling and community support at the shelter, according to Gansler.
The shelter’s mission is to enable homeless women to obtain permanent housing on a sustainable basis. Women of all races, religions and backgrounds are welcome.
“We wrap resources around the women to be loving and supportive. At the same time, they get resources to sustain themselves in housing and employment. Sometimes it’s a need to reunite with family, or a guest is waiting for resources, or escaping domestic violence,” Gansler said.
Wesley added: “There are many reasons for women becoming homeless. Sometimes the cause is surprise expenses related to the cost of medical care for a serious illness. Perhaps a job is lost because a company has changed locations and is no longer near a MARTA station or bus stop. Many homeless women are educated, working people whose lives have taken a wrong turn.”
Wesley emphasized the need for community volunteers and involvement. “We depend on volunteers to assist with job skills, including resume writing and mock interviews; those with backgrounds in budgeting or finance; hospital workers to talk about healthcare; and people who can serve dinner.”
Families are encouraged to cook for shelter guests, serve dinner and stay to play board games. Children in elementary school and older are welcome to volunteer with an adult. Easily accessible, Rebecca’s Tent wish list items can be fulfilled from Amazon.
For more information, visit www.rebeccastent.org.