And because we also have a recovery program for residents who ask for one, we want protection from many of the activities that surround us on the other side of Pine and Courtland streets — the same protection other residential facilities receive from the city.
We know now that the most important way to prevent and end homelessness is to include people who have been excluded and who, with acceptance, encouragement and tools they can use, become leaders who make us the community we are becoming. What works with all of us is finding safety and, gradually, celebration in a life with new support, better information and meaningful experiences.
We are always looking for the twinkle that shows up when we take folks on a tour of our programs. Is it our rooftop garden, planted and maintained by resident volunteers who frequently participate in certificate programs offered by Truly Living Well, Rashid Nuri’s urban farming program? When our garden club harvested buckets and buckets of organic homegrown cabbage, we took those buckets to the Cathedral of St. Philip. The cabbage became enough coleslaw to serve dinner to hundreds of residents. The garden club gives basil to our newest neighbor, Ocean’s Restaurant.
Is it our computer lab that motivates us, where folks learn basic skills and then can develop resumes with our resident volunteer who is trained as an employment coach? Residents and others often come to that room for GED classes and other training that keeps them moving toward their own goals.
If a resident is interested in art, he may want to help us finish the colorful mural on the wall around the garden, where a hive of bees produces honey and two rabbits live happily eating leftovers.
While this facility is still a “crisis center” and “overflow shelter,” it also includes transitional housing and our art studio and gallery, where resident and non-resident artists enjoy free studio space and create work that is displayed and offered for sale. Soon, our kitchen will offer culinary arts and food service training while it prepares and serves meals to residents and guests, often with produce from our rooftop garden.
Who would believe that we are here, thriving and serving and including all those who have been rejected? What a game-changer these miracles are.
Please come and see!
Anita Beaty is executive director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless.