News Release: Atlanta Mission 5K Race to End Homelessness, presented by Aetna

News Release

Media Contact: 
Rachel Reynolds, PR/Communications Associate
(321) 795-7137 Rachel.reynolds@atlantamission.org

For Immediate Distribution

ATLANTA MISSION RUNS IN THE COLD FOR THOSE WHO SLEEP IN THE COLD PRESENTED BY AETNA

Atlanta Mission takes over Downtown Atlanta for its annual 5K Race to End Homelessness presented by Aetna. On February 17, 2018, AT 8:30AM at Pemberton Place, thousands of men, women and children will take to the streets of downtown Atlanta to run a race in the cold for those who sleep in the cold. The city of Atlanta is home to thousands of homeless men, women, and children who face the perilous conditions of winter without a roof over their heads. Each race registration provides a night of shelter for someone who would otherwise be sleeping in the cold.

Atlanta Mission serves over 1,000 of these men, women and children every single day. The downtown men’s shelter alone is a refuge for over 400 men on a daily basis. We hope you will join us this February as donors, volunteers, community members and Atlanta Mission clients run side by side in the race to end homelessness. For more information on the race go to www.atlantamission.org/race

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Atlanta Mission is the city’s largest and longest-running provider of homeless services, Atlanta Mission transforms, through Christ, the lives of those facing homelessness. Established in 1938, the provide critical needs to over 1,000 homeless men, women and children daily. For more information about Atlanta Mission, visit www.atlantamission.org

The Light: January 2018

"A Gangster Finds God"

After being shot 12 times, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Gyassi is alive today. But the transformation that occurred in his heart is just as amazing...

I remember sitting in a bus station last winter, waiting for the Greyhound to bring me to Atlanta Mission. It was snowing, and the cold irritated the raw bullet wounds in my shoulder, back, and legs. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into — but I sure knew what I getting away from.

I was born a crack baby and grew up in a family of gangbangers in Los Angeles — running the streets, fighting, using drugs, going wild. When I was 15, my mom had enough and moved us to Atlanta. But the more things change…

A new city didn’t affect who I really was. My reckless behavior continued. I kept robbing people to make money. And I kept using drugs. But one day, I held up the wrong guys. They found me out, waited for just the right time . . . on October 27, 2015, I’d just arrived home, was walking to my door when a car pulled up and bullets started flying. I got hit 12 times.

By God’s grace, I survived. But when I left the hospital, I couldn’t work and had no money. I was homeless, in pain, struggling to keep my wounds clean. When  doctors stopped giving me medication, I broke down. I couldn’t take it anymore! So I called Atlanta Mission for help, and that’s what brought me to the bus station on that cold winter’s day. I came to the Potter’s House, their long-term residential discipleship program.

For a city boy like me, it wasn’t easy. Most people didn’t think I’d make it, and they had good reason to doubt me. I was still a thug and I acted like it. But I was determined to work through all the emotional baggage I grew up with. I got saved here and my life slowly started to change. I left the past behind and everything got better, especially my relationship with my mother. Everyone here became the family I never had.

Next month, I’ll leave here. I’m planning to start my own business. I’ve turned 180 degrees from the man I used to be. That’s the power of God — but God used generous, compassionate people like you to do it. Thank you for transforming my life.

Running for Atlanta's Homeless Children

Kara and Ryan Oleniczak aren’t runners, but that hasn’t stopped them from participating in Atlanta Mission’s 5K. Here, they share what inspires them to run...

Kara and Ryan at the 2017 Atlanta Mission 5K Race to End HomelessnessWe were looking for a way to make a difference, so we started volunteering with children at Atlanta Mission. We’d come and hang out with the kids — read them Bible stories, play games, do activities…it was a great opportunity to love on them, to be a steady, positive influence in their lives and show them we care.

When we heard about Atlanta Mission’s 5K, we decided to jump in even though we’re not runners. Every year, we joke that we should start jogging to prepare. That hasn’t happened yet, but we still have a great time.

This is running with a purpose. The people who benefit often don’t know where the will sleep at night or where their next meal will come from. Running in the cold might make us uncomfortable, but that’s how homeless people live, so it creates empathy  for them.

One year, we had a chance to cross the finish line with some of the kids we see every week. Knowing that we were running for them made the whole experience so much more meaningful.

Thank you Kara and Ryan for sharing your story! Like them, you don’t have to be a runner to participate in Atlanta Mission’s 5K. To learn more, read below.

Run in the cold for those who sleep in the cold.

Aetna Presents the 2018 Atlanta Mission 5K Race to End Homelessness

Join thousands of other runners, walkers, and people of goodwill to help our neighbors who don’t have a roof over their heads this winter.

When: February 17, 2018, at 8:30 a.m.

Where: Pemberton Place – World of Coca Cola

Cost: $35 Registration fee Register today at: atlantamission.org/race.

If you don’t want to run/walk but would still like to support the event, register as a Ghost Runner. You will receive an official event shirt by mail, and your registration fee will directly help your homeless neighbors.

Transforming Relationships at Atlanta Mission

Relationships that Transform

Basic needs draw people to Atlanta Mission.

Meeting Basic Needs at Atlanta Mission, Meals, Shelter, Clothing, and Medical Care

But financial poverty isn’t always the biggest problem. Relational poverty and isolation can be far greater challenges.

Atlanta Mission builds steady, caring relationships with our guests that inspire long-term transformation.

Relational poverty and isolation can be far greater challenges.
Relationships lead to long term transformation

As a result, the number of women choosing long-term, comprehensive help (rather than just a meal or a night of shelter) has more than doubled, and the men aren’t far behind…

Thank you for meeting the deep needs of our guests. By God’s grace, you’re transforming lives and ending homelessness!

Transforming lives, ending their homelessness

People Who Sleep in the Cold Need Your Help

Woman outside at Atlanta Mission in Winter

You probably don’t think about the life-transforming difference you’re making for homeless men, women, and children very often… how you’re giving them compassionate care and a brighter future. But lives are changing every day because of you — and it’s beautiful.

Today, we hope you’ll continue this good  work. Your support will provide your homeless neighbors with urgently needed food, shelter, and clothing, plus comprehensive resources that help them overcome poverty and homelessness for good.

Please help rescue your homeless neighbors from the cold streets. Donate generously to Atlanta Mission today.

Running a Good Race — Figuratively and Literally

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7

Every year at this time, I think about these moving words from the Apostle Paul. They not only inspire me to carry on the good work at Atlanta Mission — they also fill me with gratitude for people like you, who are “running the race” with us.

Next month, Paul’s metaphor will take on a more literal sense when people from across the city join us for our annual 5K Race to End Homelessness. It is a visible sign to those on the street and to our community that they matter, that we believe in them, and that Jesus loves them.

When our brokenhearted neighbors learn how much you care about them, many of them decide to stay in the race, too. It’s common to hear from a client, “I needed someone else to believe in me before I could believe in myself!”

By God’s grace, that belief has transformed many lives, and helped many homeless neighbors “keep the faith,” too. Let us pray that our impact grows in the year ahead. If you’re able, please join us on the morning of February 17 to “run in the cold for those who sleep in the cold.” You’ll help rescue many more people from the streets, so they can run a good race, too. Thank you!

Jim Reese
President & CEO

16 Blankets for 16 Homeless Babies

At Atlanta Mission, we’ve learned that God blesses us in unexpected ways, and at unanticipated times. This Christmas season, God provided a connection between a senior group in Alpharetta and homeless mothers with babies that we serve.

We serve between 80-100 children whose mothers are experiencing homelessness each day. Many of these children have undergone trauma as a result of their precarious and uncertain living conditions. They have moved multiple times, and may find it hard to trust people. Children who have experienced homelessness often exhibit speech and developmental delays, are behind in reading and math skills, lack impulse control, and can be hyper and aggressive.

These children need extra love, care, and support. The main goal of the staff and volunteers at Atlanta Mission is to provide these to the children and their mothers in a supportive and Christ-centered environment. One of the critical needs we provide is a sense of security and safety for moms and their children. A blanket is one of the basic ways this need is met.

We were in need of blankets for babies when we heard from Linda, who is a part of a group of ten women, ranging in age from 68 through 103, in Alpharetta that meets every week to crochet and knit blankets for those in need. “I specifically wanted to find an organization that took care of needy and/or homeless babies, and/or unwed mothers,” said Linda. She let us know that she had 16 baby blankets and hats to donate. Amazingly, we had exactly 16 babies at that time in our care.

The love and care that these women put into the blankets and hats is truly felt by the mothers and children that received them.“They are beautiful, and give comfort to my daughter,” one of the women who received one said.

Homeless mother and child at Atlanta Mission with donated blanket and hat

“It’s humbling to think that women we don’t know and may never meet care about us.”

We are so grateful to volunteers like Linda and this caring group of women. We can only continue to love and serve these women and their children with the help of faithful volunteers and donors. This cold winter, the moms and children in our care are warm and secure because of these blankets and the love they convey.

Merry Christmas from Atlanta Mission!

This Christmas season, thank you for remembering those without homes in our city. Your partnership means so much to the staff, clients, and volunteers at Atlanta Mission.

In the midst of the holiday rush, we hope you experience the hope, love, and joy that comes from knowing Christ. Please let us know if we can be in prayer for you or your family. Merry Christmas!

Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you— wonderful, joyous news for all people.

– Luke 2:10 (CEB)

 

Gigi’s Story of Transformation

gigi-and-ari-at-atlanta-mission

When my baby daughter Aria and I were homeless, I didn’t think we’d ever have a happy Christmas. Christmas doesn’t mean much when you don’t have a safe place to live. And I was so afraid that my daughter would have as miserable a childhood as I did.

Thanks to Atlanta Mission, that’s not going to happen now. But it’s been a long, difficult journey. Growing up, my family was horribly dysfunctional — including sexual abuse, rape, and addiction. It was so bad, my brother committed suicide, and I ended up struggling with drugs for years. I didn’t stop using until I went to jail.

When I got out, I fought hard to change. I worked as a cook, made an honest living, and was proud of how far I’d come! But then, last year, I became pregnant. I scrimped and saved to take a few months off to care for my baby girl.

Right after she was born, I heard that my apartment complex was closing. When I decided not to pay rent that month, three men came to my door, with tasers pointed at my head. I was holding my baby! Though I’d never received a warning, they padlocked my property. That day, I lost my furniture, my dog, and everything else besides my daughter.

We were homeless. What a nightmare to be on the streets with a newborn! The lone bright spot was Atlanta Mission. Even when they didn’t have room for us, they gave me diapers and baby supplies. Every day I prayed a spot would open. When it finally happened, it felt like Christmas morning.

We’re safe now. We have food, clothing, and shelter. But that’s not all. Classes on parenting, relationships, and faith changed my life. Counseling helped me deal with my past. And I made beautiful friendships that brought me closer to God.

These people are heroes, and so is everyone who supports Atlanta Mission. They’ve given us hope, a better life, and yes, a joyful Christmas. I’m amazed and grateful.

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

Breaking Barriers with Google Translate: José and Able’s Story

Google Translate App on a Phone
Open and honest communication is a critical element in a healthy relationship. Christ calls us to dwell in community with one another, and community is built on close relationships. Psalm 133:1 reminds us of this: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” But how can you build a trusting relationship or live in community with someone if you don’t speak the same language?

The Barriers of Homelessness and Communication

José came to Georgia from Puerto Rico hoping to find a better life. He had a troubled childhood and youth, beginning to do serious drugs when he was a teenager.  His passion was cooking, but the drugs began to interfere with his position as a line cook, and he lost it. He was hired as a painter here in Atlanta, and then wasn’t able to work for a few days because of his Type 2 diabetes, so he was fired. He soon got thrown out of his apartment and ended up sleeping on the streets.

José was scared, anxious, depressed, and suicidal. He was also lonely. He had no friends or family to reach out to for help. People experiencing homelessness face many barriers, including trauma, hunger, surviving the elements, and isolation. José was also experiencing the barrier of communication. He knew some English, but not enough to build relationships with others.

Google Translate Helps to End José’s Isolation

This all changed when José arrived at Atlanta Mission and met Able, an Ambassador. Able didn’t speak Spanish, so he came up with the idea to use Google Translate, an app that automatically translates text from one language to another. “We were trying to translate through an interpreter at first,” says Able, “But I wanted to hear his whole story. I had the app, so I suggested we use it.”

 

José and Able at Atlanta Mission, Using Google Translate to Communicate José and Able using Google Translate to Communicate

This amazing tool helped break down the language barrier for José. He was able to communicate freely and tell Able his entire story. “It bridges the gap between us,” says Able. José found a trusting friend in Able, and began to feel a sense of belonging here at Atlanta Mission. José and Able discovered they were alike in many ways, such as a love of cooking and creativity.

Soon after meeting him, Able procured a phone for José with the ability to access Google Translate, so José could communicate with others when Able wasn’t present. With Able’s support, José began investing more time in his relationship with Christ. “God puts people around you to put you back on the paths of God,” says José. “…God brought him and me together here. It wasn’t chance, because I didn’t know that he was Christian, and he was the one who helped me.”

Ending José’s Homelessness

José and Able, outside at Atlanta Mission
Able is also helping José get connected to critical services such as job training and housing.  “Our next steps are to help José become everything God wants him to be,” says Able. “We want to build a sustainable plan for his future.”

José feels thankful to be in safe place surrounded by a loving community. Through Google Translate, Able was able to break José’s language barrier, and help transform his life. “I wish there were more people like Able,” says José. “Because I think he’s unique. Every day we need miracles—people like him. I think that if the world were made up of people like him, the world would be different. And it’s not just me – he helps anyone who asks.”

The Light: November 2017

Gigi and Ari outside at My Sister's House, Atlanta Mission

"It felt like Christmas Morning."

After working tirelessly to change her life, Gigi found herself on the streets with her newborn daughter, hoping and praying for help...

When my baby daughter Aria and I were homeless, I didn’t think we’d ever have a happy Christmas. Christmas doesn’t mean much when you don’t have a safe place to live. And I was so afraid that my daughter would have as miserable a childhood as I did.

Thanks to Atlanta Mission, that’s not going to happen now. But it’s been a long, difficult journey. Growing up, my family was horribly dysfunctional — including sexual abuse, rape, and addiction. It was so bad, my brother committed suicide, and I ended up struggling with drugs for years. I didn’t stop using until I went to jail.

When I got out, I fought hard to change. I worked as a cook, made an honest living, and was proud of how far I’d come! But then, last year, I became pregnant. I scrimped and saved to take a few months off to care for my baby girl.

Right after she was born, I heard that my apartment complex was closing. When I decided not to pay rent that month, three men came to my door, with tasers pointed at my head. I was holding my baby! Though I’d never received a warning, they padlocked my property. That day, I lost my furniture, my dog, and everything else besides my daughter.

We were homeless. What a nightmare to be on the streets with a newborn! The lone bright spot was Atlanta Mission. Even when they didn’t have room for us, they gave me diapers and baby supplies. Every day I prayed a spot would open. When it finally happened, it felt like Christmas morning.

We’re safe now. We have food, clothing, and shelter. But that’s not all. Classes on parenting, relationships, and faith changed my life. Counseling helped me deal with my past. And I made beautiful friendships that brought me closer to God.

These people are heroes, and so is everyone who supports Atlanta Mission. They’ve given us hope, a better life, and yes, a joyful Christmas. I’m amazed and grateful.

Seizing a Lost Opportunity

“I CAME TO ATLANTA MISSION RIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS — ANOTHER FAMILY HOLIDAY, ANOTHER PAINFUL REMINDER OF WHAT I’D LOST.”

Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving alone and depressed instead of with my own family. I’d made many bad choices in my life, put my family through a lot of heartbreak, and wound up fighting addiction and homelessness as a result.

Despite all that, I had been given a chance to start over in Colorado. I’d just finished rehab and my car was packed and ready. Before I left, though, I convinced myself I needed to get high “one last time.” Then I would really be ready to go.

Believing that lie just about killed me. I overdosed. When I came to, I was in a hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses fighting to save my life.

In the days that followed, I finally realized that I really was just a hopeless junkie. My parents tried to warn me in grade school about drugs and alcohol. I didn’t listen. I started smoking pot, which escalated to painkillers, and eventually to heroin. As things got worse, I stole money from my family, got kicked out, and wound up on the streets. But no matter how bad life got, I couldn’t kick heroin.

Once I was OK to leave the hospital, I began searching for a place to heal and change. Everyone kept telling me about The Potter’s House, Atlanta Mission’s long-term residence for men struggling with addiction and homelessness, so I decided to give it a shot.

I came right before Christmas — another family holiday, another painful reminder of what I’d lost. But the people here make this place so special. Their compassion, love, and sincere desire to help meant so much to me.

Today, I’m clean, I’m rooted in a loving community, and I have a relationship with God. My life has changed so much, my parents have forgiven me, and I have hope and a future again. In fact, this Christmas, I’ll be home celebrating with my family again. It’s the best gift I could imagine.

Christmas Joy

We asked children at Atlanta Mission to share their thoughts about Christmas. Their answers will make you smile...

Child celebrating Christmas at Atlanta Mission

“I’m happy to be at Atlanta Mission for Christmas because they give me and my mom everything we need. We get to be with our friends and it makes me happy.”

Faith, 10

“The thing I’m looking forward to most is milk and cookies. I love all the good food at Christmas!”

Greggory, 6

“This is my second Christmas here, and I made a lot of new friends. We’re going to have a birthday party for Jesus. The thing I’m most looking forward to is praising Him.”

Lucas, 9

“I’m hoping for Monopoly and a fidget spinner. But the thing I’m most excited about is that my family is going to have a new home soon.”

Gerald, 9

In Their Own Words

The Rauschenbergs explain why they began supporting Atlanta Mission...

“It was easy to be calloused to the homeless people we saw around Atlanta — until our son asked, ‘Can we give them our beds?’ Seeing the world through his eyes deepened our compassion.

“As we searched for a way to make a difference, Atlanta Mission stood out. They were seeking to address the root causes of homelessness. We liked the way they focused on the whole person, providing long-term, life changing help.

“Now, we invest our time and treasure here because we want our children to know that the brokenness they see around them is the same brokenness that Jesus came to rescue from our hearts, too. We want them to follow His example of entering into and coming alongside the suffering of others.”

Your Gift Brings Christmas Cheer

Man Eating Dinner at Atlanta Mission

JESUS, OUR SAVIOR AND KING, was born in poverty in a manger. During most of His ministry, He was homeless. For these reasons, God teaches us to see His face when we look at our neighbors in desperate need.

Your willingness to help rescue men, women, and children trapped on the streets honors God’s mercy.

Now, as we celebrate the holiday season, please continue to partner with Atlanta Mission to restore and heal your homeless neighbors.

Your support is critical! You will provide homeless men, women, and children with warm meals, safe shelter, counseling, job training and placement, and Christmas joy.

To help feed and care for your homeless neighbors this Christmas season, give a generous gift by December 25.

Comfort in Unexpected Places

"Because of your faithful prayers and support, lives are restored every day at Atlanta Mission.”

Dear Friend of Atlanta Mission,

When a mom like Gigi comes to Atlanta Mission with a vulnerable child, it’s usually after a lot of suffering. It’s our privilege to comfort them, and our joy to see their fears ease as they realize this is a safe and welcoming place. I liken it to our Savior’s birthplace: Just as Mary and Joseph found comfort in a manger, so, too, do our guests find unexpected security here in the heart of Atlanta.

As we celebrate the holidays, I feel especially privileged to see the joy and wonder in the eyes of children. They love the Christmas story! It gives them hope in the midst of much difficulty.

In time, as their families’ needs are met and issues are dealt with, healing occurs. Those who have endured poverty, abuse, and every other kind of misery experience new hope. And when they meet Christ who was born in that manger, lives are reborn.

This is the journey of restoration that occurs every day at Atlanta Mission — a journey that your faithful prayers and support make possible.

Thank you for showing love and kindness to our struggling neighbors — at Christmastime, and all year long. May God bless you this holiday season.

Blessings,

Jim Reese

Harry’s Story of Transformation

“I had it all, but I lost it all.” That’s how Harry summarizes the disastrous events that brought him to Atlanta Mission. He had everything a man could want — family, home, career and more. But when his wife of more than 20 years left him, it all came crashing down.

Harry was overwhelmed with sadness and “completely lost.” To ease that pain, he used cocaine heavily — only to lose the last thing that was keeping him going, his job. He stayed in motels until his money ran out. Then he was homeless.

Last year at Thanksgiving, he hit rock bottom.

“My best friend invited me over to celebrate, but I was so brokenhearted and lost in addiction that I missed it. I was destroying myself,” he remembers. Indeed, Harry was so low that he went four days straight without eating.

Desperately hungry, Harry realized he would have to dig through trash to eat — something he had never had to do before. The thought was so upsetting, so disturbing, that it finally convinced him to come to Atlanta Mission for help. “I came here with just the clothes on my back,” he says. “It was a day or two after Thanksgiving. When I got here, I couldn’t believe  how nice this place was. Everyone was so welcoming. And I was so relieved to have food, I was trying to eat everything and then some.”

Those meals sparked a healing journey that continues to this day. Now, not only is Harry clean, but he’s also living responsibly and recently began a new job. His relationship with his children has strengthened and he’s growing in faith.

Looking back, Harry says, “When my wife left, I should have followed God. Instead, I listened to my flesh. My teachers here taught me about spiritual warfare, and my counselors taught me about healing. I see now how I need God in everything.”

When he thinks about the pain he was in last Thanksgiving and where he is today, the contrast is stunning — and Harry is filled with gratitude. “Atlanta Mission has been a big blessing,” he says. “The people who support this place gave me another chance.”

To read other amazing stories of transformation, click here!

“If Your Identity is Broken, Your Life is Broken”

by Leize Marie Davis

Men experiencing homelessness chatting at Atlanta MissionMany early mornings at The Shepherd’s Inn, I have been visited by Paul. He comes in beaming and asking how he can pray for me. Throughout the conversation, he begins to recite the litany of his past wrongs and wounds: in and out of jail, abused as a child, drugs, life on the streets, etc. It breaks my heart that not only is his identity anchored in past abuse and mistakes. I wonder if he sees the joyful smile he brings to the room in the same way I do.

For years I tried to engage a client who has been in and out of one our shelter campuses for longer than I have worked here. Most times, she never speaks, and the rare responses I get are never friendly. A few weeks ago, I heard a client say goodbye as I was heading to my car. It was her! I barely recognized her with a smile on her face.

In his book People of the Second Chance, Mike Foster states, “…just because we have made mistakes doesn’t mean we are mistakes… Identity is the engine that drives the relationship not only with ourselves but also with God and Others. If your identity is broken, your life is broken.”

The men and women we serve believe their lives are the sum of their mistakes and their past wounds define the future. In order to help our clients become rooted in community we must address these broken identities. It is important that we work to see what is hidden deep beneath the scars and wounds of lives filled with trauma and abuse. We must demonstrate that the Lord believes they are more than the broken identity they see in the mirror.

The world tells those experiencing homelessness that they deserve to be in the margins, that their behavior is a representation of their identity. But we as Believers know better. We are called to repair their broken identities and help them see who they truly are, a beautiful creation made in God’s image.

Pray Without Ceasing

Praying HandsOur guests and staff face obstacles and hardships every day as they pursue transformation and fresh starts. We would appreciate your prayers and will share our requests periodically here on the blog.

Today, the following prayer requests are for the staff and guests at The Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children.

The Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children provides a variety of services, including childcare, showers, laundry, lunch, MARTA cards for medical appointments, medical care, life-skills classes, recreational opportunities, access to My Sister’s House (for overnight services), and much more.

For the Staff Team

Pray for unity and renewal as the staff work on the frontlines with women and children experiencing homelessness, addiction, mental illness, and PTSD. Pray for the staff to rely on the Lord as they attempt to love anew each day regardless of the constant flood of needs.

For Our Guests

Please continue to pray for the women and children who come to The Atlanta Day Shelter seeking help. Pray for people to experience the genuine love and peace of God. Pray for more mental health and recovery resources. Pray for the women’s safety and the safety of their children.

The Light: September 2017

Harry found healing at Atlanta Misison

"I was destroying myself."

Harry was a shattered man. His once happy life had broken apart. Now, he’d not only missed out on Thanksgiving — he hadn’t eaten in four days . . .

“I had it all, but I lost it all.” That’s how Harry summarizes the disastrous events that brought him to Atlanta Mission. He had everything a man could want — family, home, career and more. But when his wife of more than 20 years left him, it all came crashing down.

Harry was overwhelmed with sadness and “completely lost.” To ease that pain, he used cocaine heavily — only to lose the last thing that was keeping him going, his job. He stayed in motels until his money ran out. Then he was homeless.

Last year at Thanksgiving, he hit rock bottom.

“My best friend invited me over to celebrate, but I was so brokenhearted and lost in addiction that I missed it. I was destroying myself,” he remembers. Indeed, Harry was so low that he went four days straight without eating.

Desperately hungry, Harry realized he would have to dig through trash to eat — something he had never had to do before. The thought was so upsetting, so disturbing, that it finally convinced him to come to Atlanta Mission for help. “I came here with just the clothes on my back,” he says. “It was a day or two after Thanksgiving. When I got here, I couldn’t believe  how nice this place was. Everyone was so welcoming. And I was so relieved to have food, I was trying to eat everything and then some.”

Those meals sparked a healing journey that continues to this day. Now, not only is Harry clean, but he’s also living responsibly and recently began a new job. His relationship with his children has strengthened and he’s growing in faith.

Looking back, Harry says, “When my wife left, I should have followed God. Instead, I listened to my flesh. My teachers here taught me about spiritual warfare, and my counselors taught me about healing. I see now how I need God in everything.”

When he thinks about the pain he was in last Thanksgiving and where he is today, the contrast is stunning — and Harry is filled with gratitude. “Atlanta Mission has been a big blessing,” he says. “The people who support this place gave me another chance.”

Man Eating Thanksgiving Dinner at Atlanta Mission

Why They're Grateful for You

In their own words, our clients explain how your faithful prayers and support transformed their lives . . .

“I was on my own but I needed help. I didn’t know where I could go. I didn’t know how I would survive. But when I came to Atlanta Mission, everything was okay. The presence of God is here.”

-Lincoln

“I used to come to Atlanta Mission just for a meal or a place to sleep. Eventually I got tired of being homeless and came for life transformation. Today I have a good job and a better future.”

-Barry

“I was lost and hopeless, but I felt like God was saying, ‘Atlanta Mission is where you’re supposed to be.’ He was right of course. They gave me the help I needed.”

-Tremaine

“If it weren’t for Atlanta Mission, I’d probably be dead. But here, I’m surrounded by people who genuinely care. I love it here.”

-Brandon

“I’m so grateful for Atlanta Mission. God redeemed my life here, and they helped me get back on my feet.”

-Clay

Give Your Homeless Neighbors a Thanksgiving to Remember

ON THANKSGIVING DAY we’ll serve more than 1,000 turkey dinners. Take a look at the ingredients that make such a grand celebration possible:

  • 150 turkeys
  • 2,000 rolls
  • 100 lbs. of butter
  • 725 lbs. of potatoes
  • 90 gallons of gravy
  • 36 gallons of cranberry sauce
  • 80 gallons of macaroni
  • 150 lbs. of cheddar cheese
  • 180 lbs. of green beans
  • 20 lbs. of onions
  • 50 lbs. of celery
  • 80 pumpkin pies
  • 80 apple pies
  • 90 lbs. of chicken stock
  • 1,200 eggs
  • 150 lbs. of flour
  • 120 gallons of milk

Thank you for helping our homeless neighbors experience a celebration that fills their hearts with gratitude.

Thanksgiving Meals Transform Lives

Little Girl eating at Atlanta Mission

Very soon now, our homeless neighbors will begin arriving at Atlanta Mission in large numbers to escape the streets and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. As they experience food and fellowship and learn about God’s love, many will be inspired to begin a long-term healing journey — just like Harry.

Between now and Thanksgiving, we must serve close to 98,000 meals. And we need your help!

It costs just $2.67 to provide one nutritious meal. However many you choose to give, please don’t delay. We must have funds in place by October 10. Give Today.

Your gift will provide delicious meals for our guests and other life-transforming resources that help end homelessness in Atlanta. Click here to donate this Thanksgiving season.

The Grace of Giving

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

Dear Friend of Atlanta Mission,

50 cent Donation to Atlanta Mission from Faithful DonorIn my top desk drawer, I keep a letter from a man with two quarters taped to it. As he explained, it was all he had but he wanted to give it to the Atlanta Mission because of the critical needs of the people we serve — needs that were greater than his. Like the story of the widow’s mite in Luke 21, I believe God honors these gifts and performs miracles with them.

I see his letter every day, and it is a wonderful reminder to be grateful for the sacrificial giving exhibited by so many good people in our community. A heart of giving is itself a wonderful gift from God.

As recorded in Acts 20:35, Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive. I see that firsthand at Atlanta Mission when I watch men and women who may not have a single possession share with one another. Even if the gift is small — like a candy bar or an extra portion of dessert — this act of kindness never fails to brighten the day of both people. But the biggest smile always belongs to the giver!

In that same way, I hope your faithful prayers and support for Atlanta Mission fill your heart with joy this Thanksgiving, too. I have seen tears of gratitude in our halls, and they are a testament to the impact of your compassion and support for Atlanta Mission.

Blessings,
Jim Reese

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.