Maryum C Lewis
President & Chief Executive Officer
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Every leader makes sacrifices in pursuit of organizational success, but the stakes can be amplified for some nonprofit leaders, said Maryum C. Lewis, president and CEO of Jerusalem House Inc.
“Oftentimes the lives and future of those who are most in need are what’s at stake,” she said. “The biggest and most important risk I’ve taken was the decision to have a career in the nonprofit field. The work is hard, the hours are long, the efforts to raise awareness and funding are not always successful — and the risks of failure are bigger than ever. But the rewards — the knowledge that you’ve spent your life changing lives for the good — makes it all worthwhile.”
Jerusalem House is Atlanta’s oldest and largest provider of permanent housing for Atlanta’s low-income and homeless individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS. Jerusalem House provides housing options, supportive services and educational opportunities that contribute to a resident’s overall self-sufficiency.
Lewis said Jerusalem House has immense challenges on the horizon, but she is ready to meet them head-on.
“I believe one of my greatest strengths is the ability to think and strategize at the macro level, but connect and act on the micro level — and that is truly my process for problem-solving,” Lewis said. “My entire career has been built on the bedrock of solving problems, finding solutions to societal concerns as diverse as homelessness, employment, education and health.”
Over the next two years, the Atlanta community’s allocation of federal Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) funds will be reduced by almost half, to $12 million, due to changes in the program. As the largest grantee under the program, the nonprofit expects the cuts will dramatically affect Jerusalem House. At the same time, apartment rental prices across the region have increased to the point where Jerusalem House is increasingly challenged with securing housing for its residents at rates that HOPWA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allow.
Jerusalem House plans to overcome both of these challenges by acquiring permanent supportive housing facilities and has launched an expansion plan. It secured $7 million in new funding for facilities from the City of Atlanta HOPWA program. At the same time, the nonprofit sold one of its properties — the Family Program on North Decatur Road — in order to secure housing that could support more than 12 families.
“We will use these two sources to begin the process of acquisition, while simultaneously seeking additional funding for acquisition through government, corporate and philanthropic partnerships,’ Lewis said. “The creation and success of this plan, thus far, in less than a year, has been my greatest accomplishment.”
My recognition as a Titan 100 was a career, actually a life, highlight for me. It was validation that the 20+ years I've given to the non-profit sector in Atlanta are important, worthwhile and life- changing. The Titan program has also allowed me to connect with an amazing group of peers who serve as a great resource to me. Finally, The Titan 100 has been an opportunity to highlight the work of Jerusalem House and bring awareness of our work to a new audience.