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.

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.