“We have a place for you in rehab.” “No.”

“We have a job training program.” “No.”

“We can put you in line for housing.” “No.”

“We can reunite you with your family.” “No.”

People often ask exactly what it is that we do at Church on the Street. In a nutshell we befriend those who say “No.”

Many ministries and social service agencies around Atlanta offer programs for the poor and homeless. But not everyone is willing or able to take advantage. There are a plethora of reasons to not use these services. On the street there is a genuine and equal distrust of the government and the church. They have been, in their view, taken advantage of by both groups. The government, in the form of policies and police, have mistreated them. The church has devalued them in an attempt at a photo op or with the desire to pat their own backs. Neither group, in many of their minds, actually cares about them or their troubled pasts and futures. In many cases, their concerns are astute.

This is not to deny that some people just don’t want to be helped. The above reasons are some of the cause, but others are too wrapped up in their own drug or alcohol abuse, some are mentally ill, and others have an enormous amount of history and emotional baggage to overcome. Some don’t feel worthy of love and help. And still others have gotten so accustomed to their life that change, as positive as it may be, is not welcome.

What about these “naysayers?” What are we to do with them? Some have said, “They made their bed, now let them lie in it.” Others have thrown up their hands in exasperation or resignation. I understand these sentiments. “We have these wonderful programs to help them, why won’t they help themselves.” But for these naysayers programs won’t work. They are not “ready” for them. The only way to break through to the alienated is to be with them. Where they are. Without an agenda. To show them they are loved. To reveal to them your love for them. To display the unconditional nature of that love. This is tough work that rarely provides immediate gratification. It is the long slog of day in and day out developing relationships and then friendships that are capable of breaking through the hard exteriors and into the trusting spaces that have been so well guarded. And then, maybe, a friend will reach out and confess, “I am lonely.” “I miss my family.” “I’m tired of living life on the streets.” “I need help.” But when those confessions don’t come, and they infrequently do, the hard slog of being with them never stops. It never stops because they become friends. You grow to actually love them, not as a group or idea, but as individuals, as a human being.

This is what Church on the Street does. We befriend those who say, “No.”

Help us to love the unlovable in Christ’s name. DONATE NOW

We are in need of socks, t-shirts, and travel size hygiene items. Donations can be sent to 530 Piedmont Avenue, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA, 30308.

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