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A Visit To City Of Refuge

City of Refuge is an oasis of positivity and good work planted in the middle of Vine City, a entangled, poverty stricken neighborhood just west of the new Falcons stadium and the existing Georgia Dome.  

On a tour earlier this week, the vision of founder Bruce Deel and his spirited team was in full force as the final pieces of the 220,000 square foot campus were nearing completion.  This two-building warehouse complex, with its own security guard and protective fencing, is the short term home (up to six months) for numerous homeless women and children, as well as a community and social enterprise center to help nearby residents escape the clutches of surrounding despair and depression.

It is a most impressive place, a mix of Disney-like avenues that snake through the warehouses comforting people who have faced extreme real-life hardships.  Serving up to 260 homeless women and children and providing solace and care for victims of sex trafficking, City of Refuge is booming with programs, partners and promise: the 180 Kitchen not only serves three hot meals a day, it’s culinary arts training program and catering services create lasting skills; on-site day care for residents and local residents free Mom’s to work, and Bright Futures Academy prepares older children for just that; Mercy Care runs a full service primary care clinic and I particularly liked the NAPA Auto Tech Training facility, 8,000 square feet auto center of lifts, tools and parts training those re-entering society with useful skills for future employment.

Less tangible but fully present: the focus on the mental health aspects of serving these vulnerable people.  Small groups living in well thought out “homes,” each designed to cater to  complex needs and rehabilitation.  When you walk the corridors of City of Refuge, you feel the love and compassion.   Tragically, there are literally thousands of people waiting to fill up the spaces when existing residents move on.

As the current campus in nearing capacity, the visionaries of City of Refuge have a next act: extend their reach further into the neighborhood and help transform one of Atlanta’s most impoverished and crime ridden area.  Years ago, a Creative Loafing reporter described Vine City this way: “boarded-up homes built among the trees along the narrow streets,…people loitering in the middle of vacant lots, casting hollow stares at passing motorists, and…young men hanging out on street corners, hollering at passers-by and then to lookouts down the street.”  Little seems to have changed driving through the other day.

Deel and his team plan to buy hundreds of acres of property, renovate, rejuvenate and slowly restore the neighborhood into a place that has a future.  It is a long-term vision that will require money, passion and persistence. But based on what they have accomplished, with the existing campus, the positive outcomes of people who have been touched there and the endless energy and purpose they bring, you’d be foolish to bet against them.


2 Responses to A Visit To City Of Refuge

  1. Joel says:

    Keep up the great writing!

    Happy New Year!

  2. Bob: You have found your voice. Thanks for sharing this story and update on the City of Refuge. You have spent your adult life helping the poor and homeless. This article is further evidence of your compassion for the lost in our city. charliep

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