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.”

 

The 2017 Atlanta Mission 5K Race Recap

2017_Race_to_End_Homelessness

On the morning of February 18, 2017, Atlanta Mission residents, community members, and volunteers turned out in force for the annual 5K Race to End Homelessness. It was a timely event—just a week earlier, the overnight temperature had dipped below freezing, so sleeping outdoors was especially dangerous.

For those people with nowhere to sleep but the streets, the race offered hope: For each registration, Atlanta Mission provided someone a night of shelter, including a warm bed, a hot shower, a decent meal, and an opportunity for life-transforming services.

On race day, 250 volunteers gathered at Centennial Olympic Park downtown before daybreak to set up. As the runners began to arrive, over 3,800 of them, they prepped with stretching exercises and fun dance warmups. The upbeat crowd consisted of young and old alike, men and women from every walk of life, including shelter residents.

Atlanta Mission’s CEO, Jim Reese, said at the time, “It’s so exciting to see these people come downtown and say, ‘These people matter.’ We can’t thank them enough.”

When the sponsor’s mascot, the Fidelity Bank lion, fired off the starting shot, the excited runners took to the downtown Atlanta streets, where they would race north toward Georgia Tech and back, past the CNN Center, Atlanta Mission’s large men’s campus, and the World of Coca-Cola.

The fastest time was turned in at 16 minutes, 47 seconds, but for many, it wasn’t about speed. With Atlanta Mission clients running alongside their supporters, it was an empowering experience for them to connect with others in the community and to realize they are cared about.

The Atlanta Mission 5K Race to End Homelessness is an annual event and is one of the last Official AJC Peachtree Road Race Qualifying Events. It’s one of the largest 5K races in Georgia, and it’s growing every year, with the 2018 race expected to be even larger.

Not only did participating in the race help race participants break out of the isolation that is so much a part of homelessness—for some it simply meant the opportunity to accomplish something. As one resident proudly said, “I’ve never finished anything in my life. The way that I’m going to feel today when I cross that finish line is the way I’m going to feel when I graduate.”

 

 

Learn what it means to be a Faithful Friend

Faithful Friends donations provide vital services

It’s surprising how powerful an ongoing friendship with someone you haven’t met can be. The Atlanta Mission’s Faithful Friends program allows monthly donors to help more than 1,000 people of all ages every day, providing shelter and safety, food, educational services, career development and counseling to get residents back on their feet.

If you donate now, the Atlanta Mission will help your gift go even further. When you become a monthly contributor, your first monthly gift will be tripled by an anonymous donor—up to $75,000! You will provide critically needed support to those experiencing homelessness throughout the year, and you’ll receive periodic updates on the lives transformed by your generosity.

For about the cost of a week of morning lattes, you can provide 10 full meals a month to hungry adults and kids or other essential services—and three times that for the first month with matching. Your consistent, generous gift will also provide a safe place to sleep, a shower, clean clothes—basics we so often take for granted—and these vital services will also be increased threefold the first month of your donation.

By automating and spreading your giving out over the course of the year, you provide everything a person needs to get back on their feet, find a fresh start and have hope for the future.

How can you triple your impact? Go to our Faithful Friends page and sign up to be a monthly donor. For your convenience, you may have your tax-deductible donation automatically processed from your selected bank account or card every month. Sign up to contribute $10 a month or more, and you’ll receive a welcome kit, including an Atlanta Mission tumbler.

Hear how your giving has changed the lives of our friends in their own words:

“From your generosity each month, you have walked alongside me and lifted me up.”

“You’ve given me the opportunity for my life to be transformed.”

“Because of your friendship, I have hope.”

But our Faithful Friends are doing much more than just contributing to the physical needs of Mission residents: they’re providing hope, a chance at personal and spiritual transformation, an education and a future.

How else can you provide so much for so little?

A famous man once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Make a richer life for yourself and give someone else a fresh start on theirs by becoming a Faithful Friend today.