Homeless find haven in Rescue Mission

Emily Farlow

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A 72-year-old woman whom Marvin Defoor, better known as “Chief,” had never seen before pulled up to the abandoned liquor store where he was sitting and told him to get in the car.

Chief hadn’t bathed in a week, but the woman asked, “Do you need some help?”

“I said, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and she told me to get in [the car],” said Chief. “Who does that in this day and time? Who does that? Especially a woman at 72-years-old, too.”

Chief was homeless and had been addicted to methamphetamine for 26 years. At 50, he had been a meth addict for about half his life.

The woman bought him food and a hotel room and said she would be back.

“I thought she got me a room, so I could clean up. And I didn’t think I’d ever see her again,” said Chief. But when he went to check out of the hotel, there she was.

She brought him to Salvation Army.

After graduating from their recovery program, Chief was left wanting more, so he went to Macon Rescue Mission, now called Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia.

That was almost four years ago. Now, Chief has been clean from drugs for almost six years and is the Resident Manager at Rescue Mission.

“He’s our eyes and ears when we’re not here,” said Executive Director Erin Reimers. “When the staff’s not here, he’s in charge. We couldn’t do it without him.”

Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia is a long-term shelter for homeless men recovering from addictions or other difficult circumstances and for women who are victims of domestic abuse.

There are currently 36 men in the Men’s Recovery Program, plus Chief, which makes 37 men living at Rescue Mission.

The recovery program has three phases. Phase one lasts 90 days, and during that time the men get acclimated to living at Rescue Mission.

“They go to half a day of Bible study class and the other half-day they do work therapy,” said Reimers. The men work in the kitchens, clean the floors, cut the grass and work at the Bargain Center, which is Rescue Mission’s thrift store located on Napier Avenue.

“When they come in, we like to assess their likes [or skills],” said Reimers. “We not only use it as work therapy and teaching them good work ethic, but we use it as a job training as well.”

Reimers said that phase two is an intensive, six-month “Bible-based recovery.”

The men spend this time getting to the root of their problems and what caused them to become homeless, and then they work to repair those problems.

“We give them hope and we give them Jesus, and they can fix everything else from there—Jesus can fix everything else from there,” said Reimers.

The men are not allowed to have jobs during phases one and two, however, toward the end of phase two, the men begin looking for work and a permanent place to live.

“When they graduate at the end of phase two, if they don’t have a job, or they don’t have somewhere to go, they move to our phase three which is just transitional housing,” said Reimers. During phase three, the men get help creating resumes and working on interview skills. Reimers said the men can stay in transitional housing while they save money to pay for rent or utilities at a future home.

Rescue Mission “accepted me with open arms,” said Chief. “I began to enjoy helping the guys that come in here that are as lost as I was.”

The Dove Center is the six-to-nine-month counterpart program for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence. Right now, Rescue Mission houses seven women and their children, which is the most it can house at one time.

“We have a waiting list anywhere from 25-35 women at any point in time, which is really on our hearts,” said Reimers. “When a woman is being abused and makes that decision to leave and call for help, she needs to be able to leave immediately.”

Rescue Mission is in the very early stages of planning an expansion that would allow it to house more men and women alike.

The women at the Dove Center go through Bible study classes like the men, but Reimers said the biggest part of the program is pattern changing class. “It is a long study program that teaches them that they don’t have to be abused. It’s acceptable to not have a man in their life,” said Reimers.

There are also nightly chapel services for the residents. “A big part of the program here is hope in Jesus,” said Reimers.

“God was the main one that I didn’t have in my life that I do have now, and that was due to this place. If it was left up to me, I’d still be without God in my life, and that’s scary for me to even sit here and say now,” said Chief.

Rescue Mission also serves those outside of its walls every day at 4 p.m. when it gives a hot dinner to anyone who needs one. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, Rescue Mission hosts meals for anyone who is hungry. This year, Rescue Mission is hosting its first Easter meal as well.

Because Rescue Mission of Central Georgia’s main focus is hope in Jesus Christ, it does not receive government funding and operates entirely on donations and revenue from it’s Bargain Center.

“The revenue from that store is about 50 percent of our operating budget here, so without those donations, we couldn’t do what we do here,” said Reimers.

For more information about Rescue Mission of Middle Georgia or about volunteer opportunities, visit rescuemissionga.com. The Bargain Center, which accepts donations, is located at 3375 Napier Ave.

“Everybody here has contributed to my recovery,” said Chief. “I never thought I could come this far and I love it. I love being alive, clean and sober and being around people who really seem to love me.”

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