ATLANTA — Small businesses, even more so than larger corporations, “are the final step in permanently ending homelessness for men and women,” the head of a non-profit organization working to eradicate homelessness told a business organization.
“Small businesses are the easiest and the best opportunity for a person that has been homeless to be able to get into an employment situation where he or she can begin to work themselves up the food chain,” Stan Dawson, executive director at Crossroads Community Ministries, said Thursday. “For somebody that’s been homeless, those larger corporations, it’s a little bit tricky for our folks to get in those doors.”
In his remarks before the Buckhead Business Association (BBA) at the City Club of Buckhead, Dawson stressed the importance of job opportunities as a means of ending the cycle. Without opportunities and without a plan to break the cycle, homelessness will continue to be a “sore spot in our city.”
“We can do everything we do at Crossroads and the other 47 agencies in metro Atlanta that deal with this population, we can all give our best effort and we do make a difference in so many persons’ lives,” Dawson said. “But, unless capitalism enters their life at some point — 10 years, 15 years — this issue is still going to be a sore spot … for those of us who know how incredibly great Atlanta is.”
Crossroads Community Ministries began more than 40 years ago after a St. Luke’s Episcopal Church member gave a sandwich to a homeless man. Last year, the organization served meals to 4,608 different people, including 1,159 women and 843 toddlers.
“Once you get caught in this cycle, it’s very easy to hit bottom quickly,” Dawson said. “If you don’t have programs in place to elevate folks, then the formula is simple: we can do something about it now or we’re going to have to do something about it later.”
While Atlanta is a draw to many people seeking professional opportunities, the city’s status as an economic engine attracts people just looking for an opportunity to jumpstart their lives.
“If you’re outside Atlanta looking in, particularly if you’re just on the edge of making it in life or if you’ve already become homeless, you look at Atlanta as the promised land,” Dawson told the BBA. “You can’t help but see all these skyscrapers. You can’t help but see all these wonderful hotels we have. And, if you’re poor, what that translates into is job opportunity.”