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.

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.

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.”

 

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.