Placing 2,000 people above herself – How Permanent Housing Placement becomes a one-woman crusade.
February 01, 2012 (PRLEAP.COM) Media NewsHousing the poor and homeless exceeds two thousand mile marker for Debbie Lewis, an employee of Atlantic City Rescue Mission who is making headlines again for placing over 500 homeless people in permanent housing this past year. A single mother and former black jack dealer turned preacher, Debbie decided several years ago that she wanted to do more than preach about God. She wanted to help people in her community experience his blessings - people who had lost all hope.
So you might say she started off small. First as a volunteer at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, and later as an evening women's counselor, the 5-foot 2-inch dynamo shared her wisdoms and the healing mercy of God's love to the women she counseled.
But when it came time for these single women and moms to move into permanent housing, she began to witness first-hand, their struggles locating affordable housing and negotiating with landlords. Inspired through their individual stories, she decided to apply her dealer and evangelical experience as a pastor and advocate on their behalf.
What began in the evenings, after work and on weekends making personal visits during open houses and showings would quickly consume all her available free-time. It didn't hurt the negotiations either when landlords first mistook her as a potential resident.
That's when she discovered that the landlords had a problem too - reliable, quality tenants. After she negotiated affordable rate she started talking with the landlord about the Mission. "What if I can assure you will get your rent on time and I would personally stay involved with the family after placement, while they established themselves.
That seemed to be all it took - that, a contagious smile, and heart felt enthusiasm for getting people placed. Soon this faith filled dynamo had placed over 100 people into permanent housing, all after hours.
It didn't take long to discover a miracle in the making. Debbie's full-time counseling responsibilities reassigned and housing placement became her chief responsibility. That's all it took to begin averaging 250 people a year. Several years later, the number of people she has personally placed is in the thousands.
These single men, women and homeless families all have something in common: Atlantic City Rescue Mission's life recovery programs, money management training, faith, and Debbie on speed dial anytime day or night, (except after 2:30 am). "A girls got to sleep!"
But then something truly amazing happened. Debbie placed over 500 individuals this past year. When you talk with her privately that number is a lot closer to one thousand. Most are families of two -to- ten individuals.
At Atlantic City Rescue Mission, "Debbie's permanent housing placement program is just one of the many reasons the Mission can really say: Real Solutions. Real Hope. commented mission representative Dan Brown. Many programs tout unreasonable, half-baked solutions. We tout restoration – life restoration, training and education, and permanent housing placement.
And it's all based on faith – an unshakable faith that people can be transformed and through our faith and their own, it's happening. Thanks in large part to the support we are getting from the community, local business, friends and civic leaders. After all, what better than a community full of statistics than productive working individuals in their own places of residents? Through God, all things are possible.
While Debbie was funded to perform 30 placements a year she, as constantly exceeded expectations by almost 7 times that amount annually through creativity, innovation and a passion for helping others. If you would like to contribute to the Missions efforts in this area, contact Dan Brown at: DanBrown@ACRescueMission.org or the Mission's Director of Development, Tom Davidson at, TomDavidson@ACRescueMission.org.
To schedule a personal interview, please contact Tom Davidson Director of Development at 609-345-5517 to make arrangements.
About Atlantic City Rescue Mission: For over 47 years the Atlantic City Rescue Mission has been and innovative leader, rescuing people in need with a multitude of programs designed to eradicate homelessness. From Life Recovery, to Education and Career Training, and permanent affordable housing placement, we provide a respite for lives in distress. Project Restart program provides donated furniture to needy families who are moving on with their lives. The Mission Farm also provides a unique experience, connecting individuals within themselves and to the community at large, while reducing some of the Mission's operational costs.