By Maria Carr, Director of Outreach, Intown Collaborative Ministries
When I was in 6thgrade, I wrote a poem called “Home” for a school assignment. I wrote about home being the place I could be myself, the comfort of my family sofa, the smell of dinner wafting from the kitchen. As an adult, for the past 12 years, I’ve had the opportunity to welcome many of our friends experiencing homelessness into their homes. Most recently, over the past year with Intown Collaborative Ministries, our Outreach Team has walked alongside 76 of these friends into the doors of their own homes.
To celebrate our friends making it home, we decided to start an annual Graduation Dinner Celebration, and invited our newly housed friends to Druid Hills Presbyterian Church on October 23rd! Twenty-two of Intown Collaborative Ministries clients who were experiencing homelessness in the streets and/or shelters, but are now in housing, participated in this celebration. We took part in a catered meal together, created artwork reflecting on housing, had pictures taken for our friends to have printed for their homes, and enjoyed one another’s company. Intown Collaborative Ministries staff, along with volunteers from Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, who sponsored the event, fellowshipped with our housed friends.
We listened to our clients’ stories of transformation and heard about what home means to them. We heard that home was having one’s own key to turn into one’s own door. We heard about how home saved lives. We heard how home brought comfort, joy, and transformation.
As I reflect on the work of Intown Collaborative Ministries and the collaborating efforts of our sponsoring congregations and partnering non-profit organizations, I am reminded of the effort that it takes to build a home. A foundation must be laid and hard work must be done to build the walls and secure the structure. In our work with our friends experiencing homelessness, it takes a collaborative effort. We must build rapport and trust, reach out to our neighbors in the streets, and walk with them. Then, we can usher our friends into the doors of housing where, brick by brick, they can begin to rebuild their lives. And they can do this, in the words of my childhood poem, in a space where they can be themselves, on the comfort of their sofas, with the smell of dinner wafting from their kitchens.