Posted by DrewBenton on March 10th 2009 in Organizations Edit

It seems like yesterday I stepped onto the property of SafeHouse Outreach (SHO) and was totally freaked out at the sight of several hundred homeless men and women. Being a middle class suburban kid I had never been exposed to such a sight.

At first, I was not sure how to respond. I did not know if I should go up and talk to people or keep to myself. To be honest, I think I was on homeless people overload. I felt as though I had stepped into a third world country. The poverty these people were living in was too much for me to bear.

My background in the suburbs had taught me these people were lazy, crazy, or addicted. Much of my impression of “homeless people” had been shaped by television and pop culture. These thoughts and others raced through my head as I began to walk across the parking lot of SHO and began looking into the faces of these people.

About that time I heard someone shout out at me, “Young man!” I turned and saw a man sitting in a chair wearing layered clothing and a sock hat, holding a cane. I went over to the man and introduced myself. He told me his name was Marlon and he could tell I was new.

Marlon and I had a good laugh at the fact that I looked totally freaked out. We then talked about all kinds of different topics. We talked about God, family, life, and more. His insight was incredible. The more we talked the more we began to connect. The more we began to connect the more I forgot I was talking to a “homeless” man.

Marlon was not very different from anyone I had met before. His circumstances were very different. This was perhaps the biggest realization I had that night - these people were no different than me.

I met Marlon almost two years ago. Since then SHO has asked me to come on full time, I’m currently serving as the Urban Nation Director. The mission of SafeHouse Outreach is to provide practical, emotional and physical assistance to those living in the margins, and to help integrate them back into society to lead healthy and functional lives. We do this by empowerment through life skills training, providing better health through medical assistance, and by meeting practical, emotional & spiritual needs.

We offer a variety of programs, one, Impact Services, happens every night. In addition to music and a positive message, we provide meals for over 200 homeless men and women.

Problem Solvers, another program, is open to the community five days a week, to provide real solutions for the problems people face on the street. Through this resource center we provide mail for over 2,000 clients, phone and internet services, resume building, family reunification, drug rehab placement, and much more.

Finally, SHO has developed two programs that focus on the prevention of homelessness. TEAM is focused on mentoring children of incarcerated parents, and Family Resource Services is focused on teen parenting.

In addition to serving people in the margins, we are also passionate about teaching others to serve. Annually we have over 10,000 individual volunteers that serve with us. We also have a short term mission experience to downtown Atlanta called Urban Nation. Teams come from all over the nation to spend a week doing various projects across the city.

The lesson I learned with Marlon was a huge one. So many people who have served with us have also been through similar journeys. I look forward to sharing more lessons of how I am learning to live love in the margins of downtown Atlanta.

SafeHouse Outreach
Drew Benton’s writing can also be read at his blog: Learning to Live Love

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