HOPE Atlanta’s new CEO, Julio Carrillo, shares his vision

Ending homelessness and hunger in our communities is a monumental task requiring much teamwork and innovation. Fortunately, HOPE Atlanta’s new CEO has quite the track record. Renowned for his leadership, out-of-the-box thinking, and ability to collaborate with community partners, Julio Carrillo believes strongly in what we’re capable of as a society if we bring our biggest and best ideas to the table.

We sat down with Julio to learn more about his background, his vision for HOPE Atlanta and our communities, and whether it’s possible to truly solve homelessness and hunger. Spoiler alert: he’s optimistic.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I am originally from Colombia, South America. I grew up in Spain and went to school there. We relocated to the Canary Islands, where I grew up for eleven years. From there, I moved to the states by myself, to Atlanta, and started working in corporate America.

What made you pivot to nonprofit management after working in the private sector?

Big Brothers Big Sisters called me because they wanted to start a Hispanic mentoring program. At the time, they were having a lot of trouble getting the program off the ground. I met with their leadership, and they asked me all these questions about mentorship. At first, I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not the guy for the job.’ I had talked myself out of it.

But then they told me they had a position available in the finance department, so I joined the finance team. Very soon, everybody was in my office asking me questions about programmatic initiatives, so I started deep-diving, and I fell in love with the mission. That’s when I moved into the program arena. I helped to launch the first Hispanic mentoring program in Atlanta, and then we introduced it throughout Georgia because it was so successful. Then, we helped expand the program into 120+ organizations across the country.

Why did you ultimately decide to join HOPE Atlanta?

My first week working at Families First. I was walking through the lobby, and a family was talking to the receptionist. I learned that this family had been going back and forth with so many organizations across our community. There was a car parked in the parking lot loaded with boxes and bags.

I said, ‘Hello,’ and their 11-year-old son looked at me and said, ‘I am homeless.’ That, for me, was devastating. That was the first time I had ever heard that from a child. He basically said, ‘I don’t have a place to sleep. I’ve been sleeping in this car for three months, and I’m hungry.’ I ended up sitting down with them in the lobby and learned about their journey and the things they’d gone through.

I learned that the father had lost his job and his home because he had to decide between making their house payment and buying medication for his wife, who was in chronic pain. They were uninsured, and he started to get behind. He was a forklift driver and needed to renew his certifications, but because they did not have money, his certification expired. So he was let go from his job. He had no job and no medication for his wife. They were living in their car outside of Home Depot and waiting for people to need him for a few hours of labor. He had to decide, ‘Do I save this money to put gas in the car and drive to a more hidden spot at night, or do I buy food for my family?’

Eventually, we were able to partner with some organizations in the area to position them in a temporary home. We helped the father get his license, return to work, and navigate getting a job. His wife was actually able to get insured and get the medical treatment she needed. The kids were able to go back to school, and now they’re in a stable home. That’s what I hope to do here at HOPE Atlanta.

For me, that story was very impactful. It changed my life, and this is why I’m with HOPE Atlanta. Because I want to fight. We will fight, so we don’t have one more person or one more family going through that.

We are the most established organization in the state of Georgia to provide services to our homeless population, and most recently we combined our efforts with Action Ministries to tackle hunger and food insecurity.

I’m excited for the opportunity to redefine how hunger and homelessness services can be integrated, so we can improve lives at scale and carry out our mission for another 122 years.

From your perspective, what are the biggest reasons homelessness and hunger remain so widespread in Metro Atlanta and across Georgia?

We have a systemic issue here. The challenges people are facing right now are inflation and affordable housing, and people aren’t making enough money. Go to the grocery store right now, put three items in your cart, and see if you feel it. If you’re feeling it, then [our clients] are feeling it.

We have economic inequalities here. The lack of opportunities for minorities is an issue. We need to make sure we have access to high-paying jobs and community support.

Do you think these issues can be solved? What will it take?

I think everything is possible as humans. We can achieve so many things. Atlanta is a very generous community. Atlanta has a lot of diversity and great companies. We have amazing nonprofits and community leaders. We have the elements in place to make this work — it’s just going to require us to think differently.

In a perfect world, we would have better coordination and collaboration and create a better ecosystem that understands our population and community. Not every community can be approached the same way. We want to track that progress with data and technology.

What are some ways we can use technology to address homelessness and hunger more effectively?

I have a background in running a tech company that focuses on nonprofit implementations across the United States.

I partnered with a company to develop a technology career program to break the cycle — one client at a time.

We can do it here, one family at a time. We can do this using sophisticated approaches to move people faster. You can track and monitor and coordinate with other service providers. We all need to understand the role that we play, then bring organizations together that complement and support one another.

There are cities right now that are doing some research, like Houston and Seattle, using a systematic approach where they have organized and provided resources for their homeless communities. We have seen that Houston and Seattle have taken a more active approach to pilot this new model, and we can see progress. I would love to bring Houston into our city and learn and share.

What can you tell us about the strategic plan for HOPE Atlanta moving forward? What are some of your biggest goals?

We are in the process now of deconstructing what we have always done and piecing it back together. I want to know who the players are, who we can collaborate with, and where we are duplicating services. Where are the new opportunities, and how can we provide and sustain services?

Very soon, I’m going to start going out into the community and working with clients. I want to experience the outreach at the airport. The team has done a wonderful job with that program. I have been listening and observing so that we can strategize how to move clients from that survival state to a more stable one. We want to create solutions that create self-stability and a path to economic opportunities.

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HOPE Atlanta

HOPE Atlanta


Our vision is to end homelessness and hunger for every Georgian.