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.

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!

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

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.

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 Children and Delayed Speech

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

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

Helping kids catch up

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

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

Breaking the cycle of silence

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

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

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

 The work of Spread the Word

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