Atlanta Mission Prepares for Irma

Facing weather like Irma can be scary, even with shelter and preparations. Imagine though, that you have no walls to protect you, maybe just a tent or a cardboard box. A tropical storm becomes a life or death situation for someone experiencing homelessness. That’s why this morning, Atlanta Mission staff went out and helped countless individuals find a safe place to stay. That’s why at lunch, Atlanta Mission volunteers braved the elements to come serve meals to those who would otherwise be outside in this storm. You can hear more about their efforts in the videos below.

Please pray for the following during the duration of this storm:

  • Pray for safety for our staff as they drive through severe weather to get to our campuses.
  • Pray for strength for our staff and volunteers as they serve overnight.
  • Pray for the protection of those facing homelessness who are remaining outdoors.

 

Macey’s Story of Transformation

Macey and her children at atlanta mission

After years of abuse, poverty, and dysfunction, Macey and her children had run out of options. Desperate to avoid the streets, they came to Atlanta Mission…

“I’ve struggled for a long time,” Macey admits. “Bad jobs, abusive boyfriends, moving around a lot. It’s been one thing after another.”

In many ways, these struggles are a continuation of her childhood. Macey came from a broken home, and instability has characterized much her life. This constant chaos has made it nearly impossible for her to provide for her children, too.

Eventually, she ran out of options and came to Atlanta Mission. For the first time, she experienced a stable, healthy environment to learn and grow in.

“I’m so grateful for Atlanta Mission,” Macey says. “It’s safe, we have beds to sleep on, and it’s been very good for me and my kids, Faith and Greggory.”

Today, both children are doing well in school. They received uniforms and backpacks from Atlanta Mission. And Macey is especially appreciative of the activities her children get to enjoy. “There are arts and  crafts, plus sports. They never had these opportunities before.”

The family isn’t just having fun, though. Their time here is intensely purposeful. For example, Macey took a parenting class that has dramatically improved her interaction with her children. “I’m a better mother now,” she explains. “This class gave me the tools I need to connect with my children — to really hear what they’re saying, understand them, and help them mature.”

More effective communication has been a key part of the family’s spiritual growth, too. “We’re all learning about God, and we talk about the Bible. Faith and Greggory have a better understanding of who Jesus is, and it’s changed their lives.” She continues: “I’m still going through some tough things, but I’ve learned to keep my focus on God, and He gives me peace.”

Today, Macey’s life really has changed in every way. She’s working towards her GED and will soon begin career training. She has a bright future! “I can’t even imagine where I’d be without Atlanta Mission,” Macey said. “They rescued us from homelessness and opened so many doors for me. This place was an answer to my prayers.”

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

Homeless Moms and Children Build Relationships through Cub Scouts

Do you remember camping as a kid? Building a fire, making s’mores, telling ghost stories, and staring at the stars? Perhaps you have taken your children camping, and have seen the joy on their faces as they experience the great outdoors.

Many of the children that we serve have never had experiences like these. They may have spent nights sleeping on the street or in cars out of necessity, but many have never camped out for fun. They may not have ever been outside the city. Joshua Crawford, Boy Scout Program Leader, aims to change that. Last year, he took three boys from Atlanta Mission, their siblings, and their moms on a camping trip in rural Georgia. “The smiles on their faces were priceless,” says Joshua.

Young Boys involved in Cub Scouts at Atlanta MissionHe has been leading a Cub Scout pack at My Sister’s House (Atlanta Mission’s campus for women and their children) for the past two years. All boys in first through fifth grade are invited to participate. The moms are also encouraged to come with their sons to each event. “It is incredibly important that moms share experiences like these with their children,” says Josh.

Building good relationships between parents and their children is an essential goal of the Boy Scout program, and it is especially critical for the moms and children we serve. Many moms have been through such trauma and upheaval that they haven’t been able to simply have fun, relax, and build relationships with their children.

The Cub Scout pack meets each week at My Sister’s House. They recite the scout oath, play games, build birdhouses, learn how to tie knots, learn wilderness skills, and more. They sell popcorn each year as a fundraiser, and go to events together like Braves games and camping trips. Joshua loves getting to know each scout and making a difference in their lives. “Your time with one child can change their life and give them hope,” he says. If you are interested in volunteering with the Cub Scout Pack at My Sister’s House, email Joshua at Joshua.crawford@scouting.org.

See People and Love them Well

By Denise Briscoe

Denise, an ambassador at Atlanta MissionToday I reached my 300th guest. What does that mean? That means I have had the amazing privilege to get to know 300 beautifully made women, and sometimes their children, one on one while building a relationship with them. I have worked with Atlanta Mission at The Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children for three and a half years now. I have been a staff ambassador for two of those years to women experiencing homelessness. As I think of all the individuals I have had to opportunity to sit with and talk to, I am overwhelmed with a full heart.

God has blessed me to get to see some very talented ladies. I’ve sat in a room with a woman that was born to be on a stage singing her heart. I could sit and listen to her sing and hang onto every word of the gospel song that came out of her mouth. Collage created by a woman at Atlanta MissionI’ve listened to an amazing singer/songwriter/guitarist and seen her heart for people. I know she is going out into her community with her music to bring hope to all those around her. I’ve been given the opportunity to lead different classes that turned into a mix of Spoken Word, poems, and true words coming from the heart about whatever topic we were learning that day. I could see the wheels turning in creativity as women used art to express themselves, whether that be with painting, coloring, or drawing.

Why am I telling you this? Because all too often it’s easier to just not look at a person for who they really are. We are always so quick to judge someone because of the situation we think we “know” they are in. When we look at the “messy” in people’s lives, we don’t really want to touch that. When that happens though, we miss out on their beauty.

I want to challenge you today. I want you to go out into the world and look at people for who they really are. Don’t just look at the woman on the street as just another “homeless person”. Look at each one as the amazing person that God created them to be. See people and love them well.

The Light: August 2017

Macey and her children at atlanta mission

Breaking Free from Generational Poverty

After years of abuse, poverty, and dysfunction, Macey and her children had run out of options. Desperate to avoid the streets, they came to Atlanta Mission . . .

“I’ve struggled for a long time,” Macey admits. “Bad jobs, abusive boyfriends, moving around a lot. It’s been one thing after another.”

In many ways, these struggles are a continuation of her childhood. Macey came from a broken home, and instability has characterized much her life. This constant chaos has made it nearly impossible for her to provide for her children, too.

Eventually, she ran out of options and came to Atlanta Mission. For the first time, she experienced a stable, healthy environment to learn and grow in.

“I’m so grateful for Atlanta Mission,” Macey says. “It’s safe, we have beds to sleep on, and it’s been very good for me and my kids, Faith and Greggory.”

Today, both children are doing well in school. They received uniforms and backpacks from Atlanta Mission. And Macey is especially appreciative of the activities her children get to enjoy. “There are arts and  crafts, plus sports. They never had these opportunities before.”

The family isn’t just having fun, though. Their time here is intensely purposeful. For example, Macey took a parenting class that has dramatically improved her interaction with her children. “I’m a better mother now,” she explains. “This class gave me the tools I need to connect with my children — to really hear what they’re saying, understand them, and help them mature.”

More effective communication has been a key part of the family’s spiritual growth, too. “We’re all learning about God, and we talk about the Bible. Faith and Greggory have a better understanding of who Jesus is, and it’s changed their lives.” She continues: “I’m still going through some tough things, but I’ve learned to keep my focus on God, and He gives me peace.”

Today, Macey’s life really has changed in every way. She’s working towards her GED and will soon begin career training. She has a bright future! “I can’t even imagine where I’d be without Atlanta Mission,” Macey said. “They rescued us from homelessness and opened so many doors for me. This place was an answer to my prayers.”

A Safe Nurturing Environment for Moms and Kids

"Homelessness is a form of trauma, and the effects are so devastating that they can span generations."

Donielle, Director of Children's Services at Atlanta Mission

Those are the blunt words of Donielle Griffith, the Director of Children’s Services at My Sister’s House, Atlanta Mission’s shelter for women and children.

She continues: “Many of the women here have fled violent abuse, and the children have grown up in chronically unstable environments. On average, they’ve gone to three different schools every year. And they’ve seen things no child should ever have to see.”

Is it any wonder, then, that these boys and girls are more likely to “inherit” their parents’ struggles? “A lifetime of disadvantages can’t be solved in a night,” Donielle explains. “Healing requires a holistic, long-term approach that begins with a safe, nurturing environment for moms and kids. With stability, Child at Atlanta Mission's My Sister's Housewe can help them come to terms with their past and address numerous other issues like parenting, behavior, finances, life skills, faith, education, work…every area of need.”

Taken together, these resources transform lives by giving mothers the tools and understanding to be positive, productive, responsible citizens.

“The parenting class has been particularly well received,” Donielle adds. “It’s helping women like Macey (see front page) become closer, more nurturing, and more empathetic with their children.”

Helping Kids Succeed in Life

Donielle’s team also serves children. “Most of these boys and girls are well behind peers from stable homes. So we want to provide them with comprehensive services, too. We’re helping babies reach their milestones; Pre K children enjoy a Bible-based curriculum that nourishes mind and soul; and elementary students receive tutoring,” Donielle says. “We celebrated in spring when not a single student was held back. Kids at Atlanta Mission with bikeNow the kids are returning to school with more confidence and excitement! This progress is exciting for us, and for the moms and kids, too. It’s just amazing how young lives change when chaos is replaced with love, stability, and encouragement.”

Your support gives struggling moms and children brighter futures. Thank you for helping end generational poverty in Atlanta!

My Sister's House...

…is Atlanta Mission’s shelter for women and children. That name allows boys and girls here to tell their friends at school where they live without any stigma.

Please help children and families without a home

Change their stories and create a brighter future

Child in front of blackboard holding book at Atlanta MissionChildren across the greater Atlanta area are returning to school. Many of them thrive on the joys of education and learning. But not all. Right here in our community, there are precious boys and girls whose parents are struggling with homelessness.

Experience tells us that if these families don’t receive help, their circumstances won’t improve. And their children are unlikely to succeed in school. Rather, these innocent boys and girls could be in the exact same situation as their parents in just a few short years.

When you support Atlanta Mission with a back-to-school gift today, you allow us to provide these families with food, shelter, and stability. Their children receive backpacks, books, food, tutoring, behavioral counseling, and healthy social outlets that allow them to succeed in school.

Taken together, these resources can break generational poverty and give local children a brighter future. Please strengthen this worthy effort by sending your next generous gift today.

Your prayer and support transform lives!

Welcome the Children!

Thanks for sharing God’s love with severely disadvantaged children and families.

Dear Friend of Atlanta Mission,

When His disciples tried to shoo away eager children, Jesus became indignant. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).

Thanks to your generosity, Atlanta Mission follows our Lord’s example and eagerly welcomes children today. When they arrive here with their moms, it’s often the first time the kids feel safe and secure. While they’re here, we make every effort to help them feel loved and cared for, too. They have fun, make friends, and experience an educational curriculum that inspires faith and learning.

Additionally, the families work with behavioral specialists and counselors who help them process their emotional trauma…and heal!

You’re Impacting Lives for Eternity

Not a day goes by that we don’t see God performing miracles in the lives of the children here. Many of them have overcome more in their short lives than most adults. As they return to school, my heart is filled with hope for these precious boys and girls! It’s one of the best parts of my job, seeing them catch up with their classmates as their moms regain hope and the promise of a bright future.

Thanks for sharing God’s love with severely disadvantaged children and families. You are transforming lives, and I pray He blesses you.

Blessings,

Jim Reese
President & CEO

Vocational Training at Atlanta Mission Leads to More Than a Job

The vocational training services at Atlanta Mission aren’t just about finding employment. Their focus is helping the whole person find a path, not just the wage-earning part. By being able to find work that inspires as well as sustains, our clients can experience transformation in how they care for themselves and their families. Here’s a look at why it works so well.

Finding the right teacher

Bill had a strong background in education—he’d been a teacher, a school principal and an educational consultant. But one day his consulting job dried up and he found himself unemployed. With time on his hands until he found a new job, Bill turned to helping those experiencing homelessness. He and his wife would go to exits along the interstate in the poorer sections of Atlanta and distribute clothing and food to those in need. They’d also conduct Sunday worship services for them.

But he still needed a job, and when he heard that Atlanta Mission was looking for people to help with their job attainment program, he knew he was being guided to the right thing. Bill could apply his skills in education to help others, using what he’d learned throughout his own recent job search. He knew he’d found the perfect fit.

Building the program

Once he landed the position, Bill got straight to work. Atlanta Mission was developing a new vocational training model that could create a unique job search strategy tailored to each client. Bill researched the top 10 skills job seekers needed—almost all of them were soft skills like communication and leadership—and started developing coursework for clients to really prepare them for the working world.

To help clients get job-ready immediately, the training program had them work on in-house tasks as a professional would. Participants were given assignments and issued real checklists that industry professionals would use. Those doing housekeeping work would follow hotel procedures, for instance, while tasks involving food preparation and washing clothes would use commercial-grade kitchen and laundry task lists. At the end of the week, each client was given a work evaluation rating and a performance improvement plan.

It was an innovative approach to vocational training. While helping get important work done at Atlanta Mission and learning solid work habits, clients were also doing something else: building a resume of successful accomplishment. Their experience would serve as a reference for potential employers who would call Bill and ask for an assessment when interviewing a client for a job.

Not just a job

Part of Atlanta Mission’s new approach to vocational services also involved developing an enrichment program, which encouraged clients to explore their options based on their backgrounds and personal interests. Bill says, “They had to get out of the mindset that all they needed was a job. The tendency was to just take the first thing that came along.”

The problem with that was that quite often, that first job offer didn’t pay a living wage, was something that didn’t really resonate with the client, or was only a temporary assignment without job security. None of these are sustainable long-term, he explains.

The vocational services strategy addressed that self-sabotaging thinking. The program was designed to do more than just place people in jobs—it was about helping them find a vocation with the help of a team, plus training for personal growth and job skills.

One client didn’t listen to the advice given to be patient and faithful—to just wait for the right thing. Instead, he took the first job that came along, which was a minimum wage position. After he realized that he was going nowhere, he admitted his mistake and asked for help. He ended up with a position in a major hotel chain, where he has advanced over the course of two years.

Laying the groundwork

Bill says that before seeking their vocation, “people have to address their root issues. They may feel like they’re ready, but they may not be. They also need to have realistic goals that match with their skills and ambitions.”

Another part of the training involves participants discarding unhealthy thought patterns and being willing to develop their independence. They must also learn good work habits, among them punctuality. The program fosters that with a morning training meeting set for 7:30—participants are expected to be there and ready to go at 7:15.

Atlanta Mission also partners with Jobs for Life, a Christian organization that addresses unemployment for the chronically underserved. A “champion” is assigned as a mentor to offer encouragement throughout the process, which seeks to restore dignity to those out of work or underemployed, a situation that leads to a downward spiral of hopelessness.

Success breeds success

The new vocational services offered at Atlanta Mission are more holistic and individualized than ever before. The skills training and job placement processes now work together, and each client is part of a team dedicated to his or her success, including a counselor to deal with life issues; a social worker who can help obtain services that Atlanta Mission doesn’t offer; an advocate, who works one-on-one with clients; and a training manager, who helps with job and soft skill education.

The results speak for themselves. One client who went to work in a housekeeping role ended up as a sous chef in a major hotel. Another took a dead-end dishwashing job, switched to a more vocational-focused approach and now manages a store for a major mobile phone retailer.

Bill couldn’t be more pleased to see clients’ careers taking off, and he reflects about his own vocation. “I feel it’s a privilege to be at Atlanta Mission,” he says. “I’ve been in ministry all my life and this is a continuation of that. It’s a calling, not a job.”

 

Giving Back at Atlanta Mission Thrift Stores

A visit to one of Atlanta Mission’s thrift stores is a unique experience. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is how sincerely happy the staff is to see you, and how helpful they are. You’ll likely receive a heartfelt, cheerful greeting, and if you’re having trouble finding what you need, someone will walk you right to what you’re looking for. It’s the kind of service you’d find in a high-end department store.

The Director of Thrift Ministry, Shana, says, “The team’s customer interactions aren’t scripted—it’s sincere caring. They go above and beyond to meet the customer’s needs. If you come in looking for a lawn mower and we don’t have one, somebody will probably take your name and call you the minute one comes in.”

It’s all about the people

Who shops at the stores? Families wanting to save money, the elderly, teens looking for designer items and enthusiastic bargain hunters from all walks of life flock to the five locations in Athens, Winder, Commerce, Gainesville and Marietta. Shana says, “These stores have been here for many years and people in the community know about us. Even if you’re a first-time customer, you’ll know who we are by the time you leave!”

In addition to paid employees, Atlanta Mission clients staying in nearby facilities often work at the store for a six-week assignment. This provides them a transition period to help them move back into the mainstream and teaches them to work as part of a team. “It’s a great growth opportunity,” Shana says, and it isn’t long before they learn how to interact positively with their co-workers and the customers. While some are reluctant at first, they leave with new-found confidence.

Atlanta Mission also works with other outreach programs who seek to place their clients in a transitional work environment. Shana tells a story of a young woman with no family who had lived in a shelter for over a year. Her experience working at the thrift store gave her hope and self-assurance, and she’s now able to take care of herself. She has her own apartment and has acquired her driver’s license and a car.

Receiving donations

There are several different ways donations get to the thrift stores: people can drop things off at the stores themselves; a truck can be scheduled to pick up heavy items like furniture; and lighter items like clothing can also be dropped off at any of Atlanta Mission’s residential facilities.

These donations are picked up at least once a week from the various drop locations—more often around the holidays—and distributed in rotation to the various stores. “Then the fun begins!” says Shana, as the crews sort through the items and select which ones are suitable for sale. “We get all kinds of stuff—sometimes we’re not even sure what some of it is—but we want to present our customers with the best.” That may require a little cleanup, but even if items turn out not to be saleable, nothing is simply thrown away.

Items that are still usable but don’t make the cut are donated overseas—single shoes, for example. Rather than throwing them away, these are sent to countries like India, where each shoe is matched to the closest mate of the same size, affording someone who had no shoes a serviceable pair.

Items that are too worn to sell or broken are recycled. Shana says, “Nothing ever goes to waste.”

Spreading the good around

Atlanta Mission’s thrift stores are a win for everybody: the donors, who get rid of unwanted items and are able to take a tax deduction; clients and referrals working in the stores who are in the process of transitioning back to the working world; other charitable agencies, who receive aid in the form of donated goods; and, of course, thrift store customers.

Low prices on quality items allow people to acquire essentials, things they would not be able to afford at full retail prices. Local churches and community agencies also provide Atlanta Mission thrift store clothing vouchers, so people in need are able to get necessities at no cost.

And at the end of the day, the proceeds of the stores go back into Atlanta Mission services. “Everything we sell in these stores gives so much,” Shana says.

Ministry

That’s not all, however. A unique aspect of the thrift stores is that each one serves as a ministry center in the community in which it’s located. Each store has a box where people can put in requests for special prayers, and every day at 11:00 am, the staff, clients, and customers pray together if they wish. Many come back regularly for the prayer circle even if they don’t intend to shop. It’s a supportive, loving experience, and the ministry provides a family-like atmosphere for all comers, new and old.

What goes around

Shana notes that Atlanta Mission is “run by people who have a heart for the Lord,” and she sees that in every part of her thrift store experience. She’s grown as a person in this atmosphere of God, and finds her nine years there to have been both uplifting and humbling.

“We all really care about people,” she says, “and one thing I’ve learned is that anybody can end up not having hope and being broken.”

Shana says the stores have made a significant difference in her own life, providing her with unexpected insights into herself. Her long-term goal is now to help others, and she guides herself with these questions: “How can I make a difference? How can I help people succeed?”

So far, Atlanta Mission’s Thrift Ministry and Shana seem to be doing just that.

 

Chris’s Story of Transformation

Chris, who was homeless, in his wheelchair, now at Atlanta Mission

When Chris was homeless, no one cared that he was disabled. But a little kindness at Atlanta Mission changed his life…

With tears in his eyes, Chris remembered the first time he came to Atlanta Mission: “I was waiting in line outside in the heat with all the other guys when a man came out from Atlanta Mission and said ‘wheelchairs in first.’ Since I’d been homeless, no one had ever shown any concern for my disability. No one cared. No one would even hold a door.”

He continued: “It gave me goose bumps that this man really saw me. It convinced me to stay and get help.” Not a moment too soon.

The son of an addict, Chris had unfortunately followed in his father’s footsteps — and paid dearly for it. Drug abuse cost him his wife, his home, and once he was incarcerated, his freedom. In prison, he suffered extreme violence that left him with a significant case of PTSD. That’s also where he lost his leg — a foot ulcer was repeatedly infected, until doctors had no choice but amputation.

So much trauma left Chris in emotional turmoil. Once he was released from prison, he soon found himself suffering on Atlanta’s hot streets.

“Every day was a challenge. A struggle. The heat is brutal. There were times when I thought I would pass out. Trying to get food, water, and power to charge my wheelchair took all my strength. I’d sleep for a few hours at the airport or MARTA, but I was always exhausted,’’ said Chris.

Even still, he added, “the lack of caring is worse.”

All of that stands in stark contrast to his experiences at Atlanta Mission. “I received meals and a bed,” he said. “I always have someone to talk to, and the people here are helping me rebuild my life.”

Today, Chris is doing great! He has his own apartment, and he volunteers at Atlanta Mission nearly every day. “I like to serve the guys here, to make their days a little better. It makes me glad to pass along the same help and hope that I received.”

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

What’s It Like Being Homeless in Summer?

Temperatures are rising in Atlanta. For our neighbors experiencing homelessness, this can be a dangerous time.After winter, we look forward to warmer weather, but a Georgia summer can be stifling—hot, humid, and exhausting. We may enjoy some outdoor recreation, but we look forward to going back to our air-conditioned cars and homes, sipping an icy beverage and perhaps taking a cool shower after just a few hours outside.

But what if you were experiencing homelessness and had no way out of the heat? What if you had to spend your days and nights outdoors without relief, with no cool water, drenched in perspiration with no way of getting yourself or your clothes clean?

Fortunately, for women and children, there’s a welcome alternative to the misery of unrelenting summer heat: Atlanta Mission’s The Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children.

Beating the heat

Denise is an ambassador at The Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children (ADS). Her job is to build relationships with the clients who come through the door looking for help. “They just walk right into an air-conditioned building where they’re welcomed in and asked what they need,” she says of how ADS works for the heat-weary looking for relief.

That might include a shower, laundry services, a home-cooked meal, summer clothing or diapers and formula for the little ones. “They’re welcome to spend the day,” Denise says. “They can just hang out, or take a life skills class, do Zumba, participate in a discussion group, play board games.”

But the women aren’t the only ones who feel stress from the heat; the kids do too. A special Childcare Ambassador creates fun, relaxing programs for them, including playtime, learning opportunities and arts and crafts projects.

For those who need more

The Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children is open from 8:15 am to 3:00 pm, but for those who also need a place to spend the night, the staff will work to find them a place to sleep. Atlanta Mission’s My Sister’s House is the first choice for overnight accommodations, but if there is no space available, Day Services will work to find temporary housing. If something longer term is needed, the team goes on the hunt to help place them.

Body and spirit

Denise reminds us that heat puts a lot of stress on the body, and it’s not just from possible dehydration: “When you’re outside sweating, you’re burning a lot of calories. People need to eat.” Of course, being homeless comes with plenty of other stresses too, so one of the goals of ADS is to create a pleasant, low-tension environment.

Part of that process involves addressing the emotional and spiritual well-being of each person who passes through its doors. In addition to having their physical needs attended to, the clients are brought into an environment where people like Denise truly care about each individual as a whole person.

She tells a story of a woman who came from out of state after leaving a gang. It took her a while to drop her tough demeanor, but in time, she let her walls down. She has now embarked on a new life journey with the help of counseling and a solid foundation in faith. The key to her transformation? Simply feeling that she really mattered to someone.

Summer is a busy time

As the number on the thermometer goes up, so does the number of people stopping by ADS. Denise estimates they may see as many as 50 percent more clients on a daily basis during the summer. When the heat becomes unbearable, women in need come because they’ve heard positive things about ADS, or they were referred by 211, the Federal Communications Commission’s helpline number.

When dealing with her hot, exhausted clients, Denise has come to appreciate her own privilege and how much we take for granted—how something as commonplace as air conditioning can make such a difference in quality of life, for example.

That’s a good thing, she says. “My ADS clients may not believe it when I say that I’m not helping change them, they change me. But I’m more grounded now, less selfish—they’ve rocked my life!”

 

The Light: July 2017

Wheelchairs in First

When Chris was homeless, no one cared that he was disabled. But a little kindness at Atlanta Mission changed his life...

With tears in his eyes, Chris remembered the first time he came to Atlanta Mission: “I was waiting in line outside in the heat with all the other guys when a man came out from Atlanta Mission and said ‘wheelchairs in first.’ Since I’d been homeless, no one had ever shown any concern for my disability. No one cared. No one would even hold a door.”

He continued: “It gave me goose bumps that this man really saw me. It convinced me to stay and get help.” Not a moment too soon.

The son of an addict, Chris had unfortunately followed in his father’s footsteps — and paid dearly for it. Drug abuse cost him his wife, his home, and once he was incarcerated, his freedom. In prison, he suffered extreme violence that left him with a significant case of PTSD. That’s also where he lost his leg — a foot ulcer was repeatedly infected, until doctors had no choice but amputation.

So much trauma left Chris in emotional turmoil. Once he was released from prison, he soon found himself suffering on Atlanta’s hot streets.

“Every day was a challenge. A struggle. The heat is brutal. There were times when I thought I would pass out. Trying to get food, water, and power to charge my wheelchair took all my strength. I’d sleep for a few hours at the airport or MARTA, but I was always exhausted,’’ said Chris.

Even still, he added, “the lack of caring is worse.”

All of that stands in stark contrast to his experiences at Atlanta Mission. “I received meals and a bed,” he said. “I always have someone to talk to, and the people here are helping me rebuild my life.”

Today, Chris is doing great! He has his own apartment, and he volunteers at Atlanta Mission nearly every day. “I like to serve the guys here, to make their days a little better. It makes me glad to pass along the same help and hope that I received.”

"It's Going to be a Long, Hot Summer"

This time of year, the heat can be deadly. Your generous support for Atlanta Mission
ensures no homeless neighbors must stay outside and suffer . . .

Man experiencing homelessness, outside in the summer heatOne man would search for littered bottles, then fill them up in MARTA bathrooms to ensure he had water… A woman with two young children was in anguish standing in the hot sun waiting for a bus… Others have suffered dehydration, heat stroke, and worse.

These stories from our guests show just how brutal the summer heat can be on the streets. “When a person comes to Atlanta Mission, they can receive water, showers, clean clothes, food, and a cool, safe place to sleep,” says Michael Sheppard, Shelter Director of The Shepherd’s Inn, our men’s shelter.

Your faithful prayers and support make those resources possible — and give comfort to many hurting people.

Last summer, the temperature was above 90 degrees nearly every day. For people trapped in the heat, dehydration and heat stroke were very real dangers. Sheppard explained, “When someone walks through our doors, we have a brief window of opportunity to show them love, and to encourage them to take the next step, choose help, and come off the streets once and for all.”

Sheppard adds, “Not everyone is ready for longterm help. So we remind them: It’s going to be a long, hot summer! Today is the day to choose help.”

Many will accept our offer. Others will leave, only to return a short time later. And by God’s grace, countless people will be transformed — now, and for eternity.

homeles men outside in the summer heat

Summer is Brutal in Atlanta

The average summertime temperature in Atlanta is 89 degrees, and many days are much hotter. In these conditions, the blacktop can reach 175 degrees. And the consequences for our homeless neighbors are severe:

  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Heat Stroke
  • Fainting

When a person comes to Atlanta Mission, they can receive:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Showers
  • Clean clothes
  • A safe place to sleep
  • and a chance to change their lives for good

Your Generosity Can Restore Lives

"With your help, thousands of suffering Atlanta neighbors will receive urgently needed water, food, and shelter that helps them feel loved and cared for during the heat of summer."

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4a).

Hardship on the streets in summer is relentless. Thirst and dehydration are only the beginning. Hunger is a continual challenge. Torrential thunderstorms temporarily reduce temperatures, only to leave our homeless neighbors soaked and miserable.

Taken together, these difficulties can break even the hardiest soul.

But there’s hope…

Your Gifts Bring Healing

By partnering with Atlanta Mission, you are serving as God’s loving hands. He is using you to provide refuge for people in distress — just as it says in Isaiah. With your help, thousands of suffering neighbors will receive urgently needed water, food, and shelter that helps them feel loved and cared  for during the heat of summer.

But every day, more homeless men, women, and children walk through the doors of Atlanta Mission. They’re desperate — and your support is critical, especially as we face increased water and electricity bills. Please make a generous summertime gift today. Thank you, and God bless you for your compassion!

Jesus Shows the Way

Dear Friend of Atlanta Mission,

Life on the streets is lonely, scary, and painful. Yet we serve a King who understands this suffering intimately. After all, Jesus experienced the trials of homelessness firsthand. When a teacher of the law promised to follow Him, Jesus warned:

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” — Matthew 8:20, NIV

Jesus also understood that extreme poverty was a physical barrier that contributed to a spiritual barrier. In many Gospel stories, a person with a disability would come to Him hoping for a physical healing — and indeed, He answered their cries for help. But His desire extended to their spiritual healing, too.

His model guides Atlanta Mission today! As the heat beats down on men, women, and children on the streets, they come here for a cold drink of water, showers, shelter, and a break from suffering.

Your love, prayers, and generosity ensure the physical needs of our homeless neighbors are met with sincere compassion. As with Jesus, meeting physical needs is only the beginning. By God’s grace, you’re also helping people here experience emotional and spiritual healing, too!

Thank you, and God bless you, for sacrificing so generously for the sake of people in desperate circumstances. God is using you in a powerful way.

Blessings,

Jim Reese
President & CEO

Liz’s Story of Transformation

by Liz

Liz was homeless, but poverty wasn’t her biggest problem. Atlanta Mission helped her deal with the root causes of her nightmare.

Before I came to Atlanta Mission, I didn’t know how badly I needed this place. Now I thank God every day for bringing me here.

I only came to Atlanta Mission because the home I was living in burned down. I needed a safe place for me and my son, and time to figure things out. When I learned about some of the long-term services offered, that seemed like a good way to stay off the streets. Little did I know what I was in for . . .

Spiritual Healing

During counseling sessions and group therapy, I realized poverty wasn’t my biggest issue. There was a deep-seeded brokenness inside of me caused by two devastating tragedies I had never come to terms with.

The first was that my mother never loved me. She rejected me from birth, refusing to ever know me or be involved in my life in any way.

I reached out to her repeatedly, but she remained cruel and unremorseful.

The second was that a woman I once considered my best friend helped a man rape me.

Pain and anger from those two events consumed me for years. But as I made myself vulnerable at Atlanta Mission, as I prayed and shed tears with the other women, I experienced healing. It was like God had removed a heavy burden from my shoulders and restored my soul.

Practical Guidance

Once my heart was right, the good people here prepared me for a brighter future. They showed me how to write a resume, interview, and budget effectively. I’d never had a career before, but with this help I went back to school and became a nurse! Now I have a good job that’s not only satisfying, but also meets my financial needs.

After struggling with bitterness and poverty for so long, I’m amazed how far I’ve come. I know I wouldn’t be here without Atlanta Mission, and I’m grateful beyond words. All I can say is thank you to everyone who made this fresh start possible.

“You were taught . . . to put off your old self [and] to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self.” — Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

Relationships are Key in Ending Homelessness

by Leize Marie Davis

Over the past few years, we have been working to transform the way we serve those experiencing homelessness in Atlanta. In all the conversations, meetings, and designs, there is a central theme: relationships. Throughout the entire Transformation Model, we are striving to build better relationships with the men, women, and children seeking help. These relationships have intentional purpose in all of our services. Through relationships we are able to:

Understand true needs, not just what the client thinks we want to hear

In the midst of crisis, those seeking help are conditioned to saying what they think they need to say in order to receive help. Atlanta Mission designed staff positions to help lessen this challenge. The staff ambassadors and advocates are dedicated to building trust so our clients do not have to lie to get help. They know they will have a person to help them navigate through their needs and seek the best possible solutions.

Build relational capital to help clients make decisions

Once we understand the true needs of our clients, we both help find the best solutions and guide them through the process. Because we know them and their needs, they can have confidence and clarity in the best next steps, as well as someone to help provide support when they face inevitable challenges and roadblocks.

Learn the best ways to serve our clients

Our clients know the best ways to help themselves. We want to build great relationships in order to better serve them. Through relationships, we not only gain greater understanding of client needs, but we also can evaluate the effectiveness of solutions.

Create space for transformation in our own lives

Two Men who met and became friends at Atlanta MissionMost of society believes that the clients we serve have nothing to offer. However, through relationships with those experiencing homelessness, all lives involved are transformed. In these relationships, we create a space for clients to give back to us. Transformational relationships are mutually beneficial, built on trust, honesty, and respect. By being intentional about knowing our clients, we are able to learn from each other and serve one another.

The term “relationships” is easy to overuse. For Atlanta Mission services, this word carries much more meaning than it appears on the surface. It is a central piece of ending homelessness in Atlanta, one person at a time.

Walking Alongside – A Mutual Support

by Becca Berlin

Look what another human being made for me, just out of the blue!

Mason jar with encouraging notes inside made by an Atlanta Mission client to support a staff member

 

Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to support other women. I mean, there’s a lot of other stuff to get done in the day to day. But it does all boil down to that: just supporting people. Walking alongside them. The especially incredible part is that when you walk with people through a season, even if the season is about them and their healing, they inevitably are walking beside you that whole time too. While it’s my actual job to be a support to them, they are a support to me without even knowing it.

The woman who made this for me struggles to keep hold of her own happy thoughts. She is currently experiencing homelessness. But still, creativity and kindness spills out of her. True light, no matter how small, can’t be extinguished by darkness, no matter how great. This jar she put together for me is tangible evidence of the God I get to witness in other people on a daily basis.

*Becca works with women at My Sister’s House Campus.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

By Rachel Reynolds

Tara, a social worker at Atlanta Mission

Sitting across from Tara in her office at Atlanta Mission you come to really understand what transformation looks like in practical ways. Tara is a social worker at Atlanta Mission and has been for 3 years.

At this moment Tara is working with 34 ladies. Tara knows each of these women by name and every day she is helping them move towards self-sufficiency. This includes vocational assistance, health needs, connecting to legal help, housing, etc. Whatever their need is, Tara is part of a team that helps each individual work through a personalized plan towards self-sufficiency and transformation.

As Tara tells the stories of some of the women she has had the opportunity to work with, you can tell this is her true calling. The joys that she experiences with these ladies is contagious. She recounts a story of moving one woman into her first apartment. This woman had been sleeping outside for 6 months and once she chose help, Tara was able to get her the services that she needed to end her homelessness. This is just one of the many different and beautiful stories of transformation that Tara has witnessed.

“Without these services at Atlanta Mission, there would be a huge gap in the city. Things here work differently than other shelters in Atlanta,” she explains, “there is no set timeline here and individuals have a customized plan.”

Women gathered outside at Atlanta Mission

Women at Atlanta Mission

One of the most important things she says is that she really believes there are women here that have nowhere else they could be. There is no one path to a life of addiction and homelessness, and therefore no one-size-fits-all solution. But she shares, “ It’s been amazing to break through to someone who has been on the streets for years and to help figure out how they can really get back on their feet.

For Tara, Atlanta Mission is where she gets to be a part of transformation.

The Light: June 2017

Two Devastating Tragedies, Two Steps to Healing

by Liz

Liz was homeless, but poverty wasn’t her biggest problem. Atlanta Mission helped her deal with the root causes of her nightmare.

Before I came to Atlanta Mission, I didn’t know how badly I needed this place. Now I thank God every day for bringing me here.

I only came to Atlanta Mission because the home I was living in burned down. I needed a safe place for me and my son, and time to figure things out. When I learned about some of the long-term services offered, that seemed like a good way to stay off the streets. Little did I know what I was in for . . .

Spiritual Healing

During counseling sessions and group therapy, I realized poverty wasn’t my biggest issue. There was a deep-seeded brokenness inside of me caused by two devastating tragedies I had never come to terms with.

The first was that my mother never loved me. She rejected me from birth, refusing to ever know me or be involved in my life in any way.

I reached out to her repeatedly, but she remained cruel and unremorseful.

The second was that a woman I once considered my best friend helped a man rape me.

Pain and anger from those two events consumed me for years. But as I made myself vulnerable at Atlanta Mission, as I prayed and shed tears with the other women, I experienced healing. It was like God had removed a heavy burden from my shoulders and restored my soul.

Practical Guidance

Once my heart was right, the good people here prepared me for a brighter future. They showed me how to write a resume, interview, and budget effectively. I’d never had a career before, but with this help I went back to school and became a nurse! Now I have a good job that’s not only satisfying, but also meets my financial needs.

After struggling with bitterness and poverty for so long, I’m amazed how far I’ve come. I know I wouldn’t be here without Atlanta Mission, and I’m grateful beyond words. All I can say is thank you to everyone who made this fresh start possible.

“You were taught . . . to put off your old self [and] to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self.” — Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV

On the Streets, I Grieved

Growing up in a dysfunctional home, Barry struggled and suffered for years — until he experienced healing at Atlanta Mission.”

My parents struggled with addiction, and there was little happiness in our home. We didn’t celebrate holidays, and life wasn’t good. They eventually divorced, but I carried a lot of childhood baggage into adulthood. Even though I saw drug abuse devastate my mom and dad, and I told myself I would never go down that road, I did.

For years I struggled with addiction. Though I managed to hold down jobs, all of my money went to drugs. Eventually I lost my apartment and became homeless. I’d sleep at friends’ houses, on MARTA, or here at Atlanta Mission. Since I wasn’t ready to get help, though, I always left the next day.

Out on the streets, I grieved over my family. The holidays were especially tough. I’d see other families enjoying meals together, and I’d wonder: why couldn’t we have been like that?

Sadness led to hopelessness. I had no good vision for the future, and I didn’t see how life could ever get better. I began to think about suicide. But before I gave up, I decided to come to Atlanta Mission — this time, for more than a meal and a bed.

“They’ll Do Anything to Help You”

I won’t lie — it wasn’t easy. I was an introvert and used to being on my own. Here, you’re surrounded by people 24/7. But they’re good people. They care about you. They’ll do anything to help. And over time, in counseling, in prayer, and through His word, God changed my heart and restored my hope.

Today, I’m not only free from addiction, I’m rebuilding my relationship with my father. My mom and I have a long way to go, but at least we’re moving in the right direction. Thanks to the work training I received at Atlanta Mission, I’ve also secured an excellent job in the healthcare industry.

In short, my life has been entirely transformed here. I’ve dealt with my childhood issues, the future is bright, and I thank God and people like you for making this possible.

Together, we’re ending homelessness in Atlanta.

Please help rescue more men, women, and children from our city’s streets. Your support leads to lasting transformation!

Your faithful prayers and support inspire real and lasting change for people experiencing homelessness in our community. Their healing journey starts with a meal and a bed at Atlanta Mission, and includes many other essential professional services — counseling, therapy, education, work training, life skills, spiritual development . . . everything a person needs to overcome homelessness and addiction for good. Liz’s and Barry’s stories prove once again that your prayers and support really can transform lives. Your partnership with Atlanta Mission rescues people with no place to sleep and nowhere to turn for help.

Please make your next generous gift today to give more homeless neighbors a second chance. Thank you in advance for your loyal support.

Lasting Transformation

Dear Friend of Atlanta Mission,

I recently had the chance to catch up with a woman who came to Atlanta Mission two years ago. She told me how when she arrived here, she had been in her own “prison” of poverty and brokenness. Today, however, her life is entirely different. She reunited with her family, and will attend her daughter’s high school graduation. She’s working two jobs, and she’s even going to college. What a transformation!

Her story, and the other articles in this newsletter about Liz and Barry, demonstrate again that by God’s grace, your partnership with Atlanta Mission changes lives forever.

Indeed, your faithful support is creating a legacy for you — one that will undoubtedly affect the people around you. I remember speaking with a young man who was telling me about an estate gift from his parents to Atlanta Mission. He was inspired by their generosity, and he was filled with joy that their life’s work would help other people for years to come. If you are interested in learning more about planned giving with Atlanta Mission, I hope you’ll check out the insert we’ve included with this newsletter.

Together, we will continue ending homelessness in our community. Your faithful support for Atlanta Mission, whether in the form of a one-time gift now, or in your estate plans, changes lives daily.

Gratefully,

Jim Reese
President & CEO

A Safe Place to Call Home

by Leize Marie Davis

At Atlanta Mission, a major focus of ending someone’s homelessness is obtaining secure housing. A client who is ready to transition out of our facility and into the “real world” will:

  • Understand how to manage finances to remain in housing.
  • Understand life skills necessary to maintain stable living.
  • Obtain safe, affordable, and permanent housing, spending less than 50% of income.

Woman and Child moving belongings into new housingPermanent housing has no set length of stay and there is a formal lease or informal agreement protecting our clients from unfairly losing their housing. Clients who have achieved this outcome will move into safe and stable communities.

As we have asked our clients what they value in a physical space, they emphasize safety. Through listening to them, I have been challenged to think about safety from their perspective, not my own. Our clients have lived most of their lives in spaces that are unsafe, both physically and emotionally. Almost all have experienced some type of trauma and/or abuse. Many have never had a good night’s sleep because they were worried about what could happen to them, their families, and their belongings.

Over the past few weeks, I realized I take safety for granted. I have never experienced homelessness or most of the threats our clients regularly encounter. Their definition a safe space is very different than my own. For example, I tend to see large fences as something that communicates isolation and a barrier to community. However, our clients see it as a protection for them. Something as simple as a buzzer at the gate at our facilities provides refuge.

The men, women, and children we serve have lost everything, and the little they have left is very precious. Keeping them and their belongings safe sends a strong message that we care. However, we must also continually listen to our clients’ definitions of priorities. Their voice is important. As we seek to understand our clients’ experiences, we must also be willing to challenge our own worldviews to see things from their perspective.

Work Provides Dignity and Hope

By Leize Marie Davis

One of our key focuses in ending homelessness is empowering our clients to retain employment. Many of our clients do not have trouble getting a job, but most do not keep jobs for very long. A significant number of our women report being fired from a job due to tardiness or conflict in the workplace.

Our vocational outcomes are that clients would:

  • Obtain skills and knowledge necessary to maintain a job
  • Obtain skills and tools necessary to search for employment
  • Maintain a level of employment and income necessary to save and support healthy living

Work Assignments

job-training-man-chainsawOur primary mechanism for job training is work assignments. Our Client Support Services team works create “real life” work environments to coach and train our men and women. Each week clients receive an evaluation based on the following criteria: Punctuality, Problem Solving, Attitude, Accuracy, Teamwork, and Communication. Work Assignments are designed to help clients gain the necessary soft skills to remain employed.

Work Assignments also allow our clients an opportunity to practice the skills and tools they are learning in counseling and other classes. It is one thing to say you are able to control your anger in a calm and peaceful therapy environment, but quite another when you have been working in the kitchen all day and someone complains about the food.

Designed to Work

job-training-woman-computerWe were designed to work. The Lord told Adam to “cultivate the earth”. Before he had a companion, Adam had a job. Also, research shows that our clients have better recovery outcomes (addiction, trauma, etc.) when they have stable employment. Employment connects us to other people and improves our self-esteem. Work is not simply a mechanism to meet our basic needs. It provides dignity and hope.

Men and women walk into our facilities believing they have nothing to offer. Through Work Assignments and job training partners, we hope they are not only able to provide for themselves and families, but also empowered to believe they have the capacity fulfill the Lord’s purpose for their lives.

Transformation Part 3: A Legacy

              Charlie at graduation

Charlie, a new graduate of Atlanta Mission, struck out on his own to rebuild his life after addiction. But despite the warning from Josh, his counselor, to get a completely fresh start, he went back to his old job. It didn’t take Charlie long to realize that Josh was right after all.

The restaurant job he had worked before involved long, stressful hours, and it put him right back where he’d been when he entered The Shepherd’s Inn. “It created the old anxiety,” he says now. “It was pulling me back down.”

Concerned he would fall back into his old drug habits, Charlie quit and reassessed his options. He got a delivery job with a regular schedule and now lives with his twin sister. Although he considered joining the National Guard, he’s decided to become a substance abuse counselor himself.

Charlie regularly comes back to touch base at Atlanta Mission and visit Josh. “Josh is one of the best friends I’ve ever had. We’re really close,” he says. And Josh has been very supportive of Charlie’s career decision, coaching him along. Charlie’s ambition is to intern for a year and then pursue a college degree to obtain his drug addiction counseling license.

 

A two-way street 

The relationship between Josh and Charlie is anything but one-sided, however. “He taught me,” Josh says. “I learned not to give up on people who are having a rough time, to be patient when they’re struggling through something. This experience has reinforced a spiritual lesson for me. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Atlanta Mission serves many people of different faiths, Josh adds, but it’s the demonstration of love that bridges that gap. “It’s a natural evolution to greater faith because of the environment here,” Josh says. “The residents have tried everything else by the time they get here—so why not this?”

Josh uses Charlie’s successful transformation as an example to other Atlanta Mission residents.

Charlie explains, “You have to really want it and not just go to please someone else.” Part of his transformation involved moving away from codependence, he says.

 

Looking ahead

When asked how he envisions his future, Charlie speaks about having a wife and children someday, and working at Atlanta Mission or someplace like it. Of the way it’s changed his life, he says, “God was right there, pushing me along a little at a time. I felt like I was alone—but I never was.”

As for Josh, he knows he made the right decision and sees himself working at Atlanta Mission for years to come. The transformation of both men has led them to a better understanding of their purpose in life. Josh explains: “Atlanta Mission made me realize what life is really about. Working here makes life seem worth it.”

 

Transformation Part 2: The Meeting

                                            Joining forces

When Josh, a new counselor, and Charlie, a new resident, met at Atlanta Mission, each was seeking spiritual healing in his own way. Josh was looking to make a real difference in a career he was passionate about, mental health counseling, and felt he had absolutely found a home at Atlanta Mission.

Charlie had a different mindset, however. He arrived at The Shepherd’s Inn from North Georgia looking for a change, hoping to quit using drugs during his stay, and then leave there and find a job. His sister, with whom he’d been living, had insisted he get help, and he was doing that. But he was wasn’t looking for any kind of transformation beyond that. The unexpectedness of what happened next makes it all the more exceptional.


The first encounter

Charlie wasn’t enthusiastic about his first counseling session with Josh. “I had a lot of anger,” he remembers. “I had my walls up.” Years of trying not to show any emotion, including grief over his father’s death, had led him to contain negative feelings. But the truth was, he wasn’t solving his own problems, as he told himself he was—he was running away from them with drugs and denial.

Charlie was part of Josh’s first class of men. The group numbered three in all, and Charlie was the de facto leader, Josh says. At first, Josh picked up on Charlie’s resistance. But something amazing happened: Josh started to see other things in Charlie, like how committed he was in making his family proud of him, and Josh resonated with that sentiment. He knew he would have been homeless himself at one point but for the caring and support of his own family. Josh had to admit that he and Charlie were more alike than different, and he soon realized that counseling Charlie was a lot like counseling himself.

Charlie, in turn, picked up on the fact that Josh genuinely cared about him and his group. “We were so much more than a paycheck to him,” Charlie says, “and we realized he really wanted to help us.”

Charlie and his groupmates made a pact that they would get through the program together and graduate from it, with help from Josh. The transformation had begun.


“They needed to forgive”

A big lesson that Charlie and his group had to learn was that they needed to be accountable for themselves and their own emotions, even the negative ones. “Theirs was a different kind of brokenness than anything I’d seen before,” Josh says. “It went much deeper. They didn’t really understand what authority—or love—looked like. And they needed to forgive themselves and the people around them.”

Through Josh’s support and help from his groupmates, Charlie began to deal with his feelings instead of running away from them. And then one day, in Josh’s office, Charlie allowed Christ into his life. “After that,” Josh says, “Charlie grew faster and stronger.”

Charlie adds, “Once I started actually dealing with my problems instead of running away from them, I realized there’s so much more to life than just worldly concerns. That day in Josh’s office took my life to the next level.”


In body as in spirit

When it was time to graduate from Atlanta Mission, Charlie and his groupmates did it together. They’d kept their pact.

One of the most remarkable outward manifestations of Charlie’s transformation is his weight. When he entered Atlanta Mission, his weight topped out at 375 pounds. When he left just over a year later, he was at 290, and now he’s at 250. “I love myself now,” Charlie says. “God invested so much in me, even when I didn’t think I deserved it.”


Next up

In the third and final part of this series, we’ll get a glimpse of what Charlie and Josh are doing now, and how the transformation that began that first day of counseling has shaped their lives since then.

 

Transformation Part 1: The Beginning

In this three-part series, we’ll explore the power of transformation through building strong relationships at Atlanta Mission.

This is a story of two men with widely different backgrounds and life circumstances who ended up transforming one another’s lives. Let’s start with how they both found their way to Atlanta Mission.

 

Josh

             Josh and His Wife at Graduation

Josh was drawn to counseling at an early age. As a high school student, his exposure to psychology classes, his desire to help others, and his mother’s role as a lay counselor for teenage mothers made him a natural. His friends sought him out to talk through their problems during lunch periods, and this led to his achieving a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies, and later a master’s degree from Richmont Graduate University in professional counseling, specializing in trauma and addiction.

Before joining Atlanta Mission, Josh was working as both a church and secular counselor, but he was having difficulty making ends meet. He wanted a stable environment in which he could settle down, but his financial situation stood in the way. With his strong drive to help others, he also wanted to be able to accomplish more with his skills and knowledge.

He knew from experience that solving such a personal crisis involves a complete willingness to make a significant transformation, even if it requires sacrifices. His faith prepared him to recognize the right opportunity when he saw it. He believed with all his heart that if he were open to change, he would be led in the right direction.

Then it happened. When he learned that Atlanta Mission was looking for a staff counselor, he saw his path. He applied right away, getting his application in just at the deadline. He felt so positive that he told his family that same night, “I just know the job is mine!”

His family was skeptical, but he was not. He felt in his heart he was meant to be at Atlanta Mission.

Atlanta Mission’s lead counselor saw Josh’s resume come in. Although she’d already held interviews, she felt as though she needed to meet with him before making a decision. She scheduled an appointment, and Josh was right—the job was a perfect fit. He says about that interview, “Right away, I just felt like I was home.”

 

                                        Charlie

Charlie 

Meanwhile, Charlie was in a crisis of his own, but he was reluctant to admit it. He’d lived in North Georgia his whole life, but had lost his father to cancer at age 16. He started smoking marijuana, then over time, began using painkillers and cocaine.

“I was holding down a job—I was a functioning addict,” he says. But he was spending most of his paycheck on drugs. Then one day his boss drug-tested him and the results came back positive. At that point, Charlie’s boss insisted he get help, and did some research on where he could get it. He discovered Atlanta Mission. The Potter’s House, one of Atlanta Mission’s campuses for men, was not far away, but Charlie spent only about 24 hours there and left, going right back to getting high. It was so close to home that it was too easy for him to get his supply and fall back into his habit.

His anger simmered, and he felt a lot of resentment toward everyone. “When you’re an addict, you always feel like the victim,” he says. He kept his emotional walls up, trying to numb his loneliness and misery, but falling deeper and deeper into addiction.

Charlie was living at his sister’s house, but she had young boys, and finally she’d had enough. “You’re not welcome here until you get help,” she told him. With very few options and wanting to set a good example for his nephews, Charlie decided to head to Atlanta to The Shepherd’s Inn. He needed a change of scenery, but he also needed a change spiritually. “God was nowhere in my life,” he says.

 

Next up

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss how the relationship between Josh and Charlie developed, and how it began a transformation for both of them.

 

Rooted in Community

by Leize Marie Davis

Atlanta Mission’s research shows that an overwhelming majority of the men and women that we serve have no healthy relationships. This means that there is no one in their corner to celebrate successes or support them in crisis. The first objective of our Transformation Model to End Homelessness is to change this.

A client who is Rooted in Community:

  • Has reliable and healthy relationships with at least one person or organization. The relationships are founded in mutual respect, trust, honesty, and support.
  • Is growing in a relationship with Christ.
  • Has at least one personal or corporate productive hobby or recreational outlet.

Over the past year, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of community in my own life. Becoming a mother has highlighted my own desperate need to be seen, heard, and helped. I am blessed with an amazing husband who provides much of that support. However, we both still depend on our community for many things, especially as we learn how to become parents.

Rooted in Community at Atlanta Mission - Mom, Grandmother, and BabyOften, we talk about our need for community as a support system when we experience hard times. However, I have realized a greater purpose of community is celebrating together. For example, my mother believes that my 5-month-old son is going to save the world. Not only does she tell me this over and over, but I also know she repeatedly tells anyone who will listen that her grandson is amazing.

A few weeks ago, I sent our family a video of my son playing with a toy. I said it was cute; my mom said it was a demonstration of his incredible genius. My mom’s constant encouragement and excitement are more valuable to me than any physical help she could provide.

Healthy community wildly celebrates the small steps in our journeys. Our clients’ first experiences of kinship are in our buildings, with our staff. We are called to not simply share in their joys and triumphs, but to rejoice and revel in the little things that make our clients human. Most of society believes that those experiencing homelessness do not have much to celebrate. However, we know that the Lord sees them and how He feels about them.

Our clients have lived their lives on the fringes of society. Atlanta Mission’s Transformation Model to End Homelessness is designed to engage them in a community that models His Kingdom.

Atlanta Mission’s Faithful Friend Donors

The Atlanta Mission's Faithful Friend programThanks to the generosity of a longtime Atlanta Mission donor, we have the special opportunity for your first monthly gift to be tripled, which means if you sign up to be a monthly donor, or Faithful Friend as we call this loyal group of donors, your gift will triple in impact. One meal will become three, one hot shower will become three hot showers, one night of shelter and safety will in fact provide three.

Becoming a Faithful Friend helps provide a level of stability to our residents that they may not have experienced before. By providing consistency of place, relationship, and provision, personal transformation is made possible.

What consistent services will your generous donation provide? Shelter: a bed, a shower, comfort and safety. Healthy food, community, and the ability to share a meal and conversation with others. Clothing: not just to protect against the elements, but clothes that bolster self-esteem and are appropriate for work. Counseling and a supportive spiritual community to help heal the soul and grow in faith. Life skills classes and job training to provide personal growth in preparation for healthy work and community relationships.

It’s easy to sign up: Simply go to the Faithful Friends monthly donor page and select an amount for your pledge each month. Your gift will be automatically deducted from the account of your choice, creating an easy, consistent way to donate that provides the help someone needs to get back on their feet and move toward a better future.

You’ll also receive updates on the impact your generous gift has made on the people you’ve helped.

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Homeless Children and Delayed Speech

It’s a documented fact that homeless children are at great risk for delayed speech. According to a study cited by the National Institutes of Health, 75 percent of homeless children ages 3 and 4 had language development problems.

The lack of stability in their living situation and the trauma experienced by homeless women result in these mothers not speaking to their children during their important developmental years as much as women in less stressful circumstances do.  The result is reduced vocabulary, impaired language development, and even slowed critical thinking and comprehension. By one estimate, an at-risk 3-year-old has heard 30 million fewer words than a more affluent peer.

Helping kids catch up

The NIH article does report some good news, however: These same kids rapidly caught up to their peers when they were exposed to age-appropriate language-building activities. Their reduced language abilities, it turns out, are not about poverty as much as lack of access to learning experiences.

To address this issue and break the cycle of homelessness and hopelessness, Atlanta Mission is working with the Spread the Word program, a $1 million dollar grant opportunity provided by PNC bank and administered in partnership with the Atlanta Speech School and Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Program facilitator Crystal Gibson works with moms to create a culture of language that they’ll be able to pass along to their children.

Breaking the cycle of silence

In a Spread the Word session at Atlanta Mission, one of the moms participating left in the middle and didn’t return. She later came back to apologize to Crystal. She had gone to the bathroom, she said, and couldn’t stop crying after watching a video. In that moment, she realized that her low self-esteem and feelings of not being heard were creating the same problem for her child—she needed to develop her own voice to help her child develop his.

In this context especially, the old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard,” is not only wrong, it’s destructive.

Crystal says her experience at Atlanta Mission’s My Sister’s House was unlike any other she’s had in the Spread the Word program. “It pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me dig deeper to intentionally meet the participant needs,” she says. Atlanta Mission residents are in a particularly difficult situation, but one which motivates them to transcend it, do better for themselves and their kids. To address that need, Spread the Word partners provide parent engagement sessions, language-rich family field trips, books, coaching, resources and research based strategies.

 The work of Spread the Word

The key concepts of the parent engagement sessions are threefold: building responsive relationships, enhancing conversational partnerships, and increasing interactive reading. It strives to promote conversations not only among parents and children, but within a supportive community. That’s the key to developing good communication skills that will help a child break out of language impairment—an issue that can make it difficult for a child to break free from a cycle of generational poverty and homelessness. The residents aren’t the only ones who have experienced positive change from working with the Spread the Word program. Crystal says, “It’s really fulfilling to help these moms and others to also dig deeply within themselves to discover strengths they may not have known they had. I feel that’s a part of my life’s purpose.”