Who We Are
We worked together at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ann-Marie was the school librarian and Niki was the English/Theater/Journalism teacher. The library and Niki’s classroom were side by side, but we really didn’t speak until one day just before winter break 2016. Ann-Marie was working with a program called On My Own Two Feet & Wheels and was leaving The Chatt Foundation. Outside she found Niki and her Advisory class on 11th Street distributing care packages.
We realized right then that we had a lot of talking to do.
We started in 2017 with outreach on the streets all over Hamilton County, but especially downtown. We would offer shoes, water, ice, socks, blankets and when we were lucky, someone we knew and had seen our Facebook post and would drop off a tent for someone we’d met on the street.
Niki’s background is in film and TV, so in 2019 we decided to get together an Independent Study with some of our students and create a documentary on homelessness. It was an incredible experience. The film was screened at the 2019 Chattanooga Film Festival. It’s called A Drop in the Bucket.
A Drop in the Bucket really opened our eyes to the lack of housing not only in Chattanooga, but globally. We wanted to do more.
We have nine kids between the two of us, and when we started Help Right Here in 2019, we were both single moms. How much more could we really do? What we realized was that we had a workforce. We drug them everywhere delivering firewood or water. Whatever. They helped put up every tent on the opening day of the 12th & Peeples encampment. They’ve been a huge support for us as we’ve grown.
We formed our 501c3 in 2019 when we took a class hosted by Causeway in Chattanooga. That class was just amazing. We met incredible people and watched as so many people’s passions come to life over those nine weeks.
The pandemic, of course, was crazy but what happened over Covid with the homeless organizations in town was incredible. We rallied together and created a homeless art group called Artists in Transition. They have recently become their own non-profit so they may continue to grow art on 11th Street and in the camps.
In 2021 we received a grant that allowed us the opportunity to travel to Seattle, Washington and meet with organizations there. We saw sanctioned encampments, transitional Villages and permanent, supportive housing.
Shortly after we came back from Seattle, the City of Chattanooga decided to give an encampment a try here. We were thrilled!
It’s been a whirlwind (to put it mildly), but we couldn’t be happier with how the encampment has gone, but also with our trajectory as a non-profit. As of August 2023, we are both working full-time for Help Right Here. With the encampment slated for closing early 2024, we are working full-steam ahead toward helping to create a transitional Village of small shelters in Hamilton County.
Our Board of Directors
Babs Gresko, M.Ed.
She has 47 years experience with the under-privileged. Most recently employed with the Homeless Healthcare Center for 8+ years as a Case Manager.
She is an attorney who has been practicing in Chattanooga for 14 years at Spears, Moore, Rebman & Williams, PC, where she is currently a shareholder. She has a varied practice which includes the formation and maintenance of for-profit and 501c3 corporations, including serving as general counsel for nonprofits and charities, providing human resources guidance, and representing for-profit and non-profit entities in various types of litigation. She also provides representation to clients in complex litigation matters. She is a member of the Chattanooga Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, and the Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Cumberland Trails Conference, a nonprofit organization responsible for building much of Tennessee’s Cumberland Trail.
He has been the National Public Affairs Specialist at the Social Security Administration for 26 years. He is responsible for maintaining work relationships with national organizations, special interest groups, and other government agencies for the purpose of presenting, explaining, and advocating Social Security’s views, positions and programs; and conversely, to solicit the views, positions, overall reaction to Social Security programs, policies, and initiatives of those organizations, groups and agencies. Prior to working as the National Public Affairs Specialist, he was a Social Insurance Specialist for 14 years and a Financial Advisor for 4+ years.