Miracles at the homeless shelter

Moderated by Rick Badie

On Sept. 26, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless avoided having water shut off at its homeless shelter by paying a nearly $600,000 city debt. The money was raised through private donations, something the task force director likened to “a miracle.” Today, she invites the community to visit and see various miracles underway at the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter. In the other essay, a state lawmaker writes about the role of temporary welfare assistance.

Come see our shelter

By Anita Beaty

Who would believe that the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless at Peachtree-Pine could pay a water bill totaling $581, 678.41? What a game-changer!

The gift appeared as a miracle for the men, women and children who spent sleepless nights fearing what we thought was inevitable.

We feel ready now to open our doors and show what we have learned over the past 17 years of living in our historic 1923 building. We are ready to say, “Come and see who we are and what we do for each other and for the strangers who come daily, frustrated and rejected and find safety and even love here.”Before you judge Peachtree-Pine by the streets surrounding us, or listen to the negatives you hear and read, come see for yourself. We work daily with any and all organizations who have shelter, transitional or permanent housing to offer our residents. Then, we provide transportation to everyone who receives a placement to more stable housing. That is only some of what we do here.

Our residents don’t have to leave our facility during the day. We have many programs and activities to engage them. Everyone, however, has a curfew of 7 p.m. and, with exceptions, must be in by that time.

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.

Build a workforce, not welfare

By John Albers

I believe it is time to usher in a new era of social responsibility and accountability by changing the way Georgians think about the function of government assistance.

Welfare-related programs were always intended to support responsible, short-term assistance by providing a “hand-up,” not a “hand-out.” Most Georgians and Americans are compassionate and desire to help others. I serve in many charitable organizations and believe the faith-based and civic community do a better job than government.

The adage is true: “Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.” There will always be extraordinary circumstances, such as those with special needs or the elderly. However, the great majority of Americans can and should be employed.

Over the past six years, American has seen the largest increase in welfare-related programs in history. I was shocked and saddened when I heard radio advertisements encouraging people to sign up for government “food stamp” programs even if they had a job. What is wrong with this picture? Rather than encourage hard work, we spend hard-earned tax dollars to promote entitlement programs. I often think about our Greatest Generation and how their work ethic helped save the world and shape our nation. Are we moving backward from their defining moment in our history?

When Kari and I first married, we worked a total of seven jobs between us. Our goal was to buy a home and prepare for a family. We worked hard, and our tenacity paid off. Many of our first jobs were minimum wage. Minimum-wage jobs are important to create opportunity and experience for Americans. I am working to increase wages for all Georgians, but minimum-wage jobs are critical to provide stepping stones for career growth.

Some have called for dramatically increasing the minimum wage, but this argument is flawed and will decrease available jobs while increasing costs for working families. Hard work can solve many problems; the Albers family is an example.Some will agree with this article, and others will have a different opinion. My concern is some will immediately take these words out of context and read emotion into the print. Some will ultimately try to change the conversation from truly helping people to promoting entitlement. Here is the reality: True compassion is doing what is best for people, not easiest. Programs to help people in their dire time of need are important and should be for a defined and short period with incentives directed toward self-sufficiency.

You will be hard-pressed to find someone more compassionate and committed to my community, state and country than me. However, it is long past time to reverse the course and promote workfare over welfare.

Sen. John Albers, a Republican from Roswell, represents Georgia District 56.

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