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In the winter of 1979, a homeless man died from exposure on the streets of Atlanta. It was at the same time that the members of Clifton Presbyterian Church, located in the Lake Claire neighborhood, were in the midst of a Bible Study on Isaiah 58 and Mathew 25:40 and wondered how they could respond. About the same time, a guest pastor from Washington DC suggested to the congregation that they establish a shelter in their church and challenged them to act. After much prayer and preparation, on November 1, 1979, they took their vans and cars downtown and convinced three homeless men to come with them. They gave those three men hot food, a shower, and shelter in the sanctuary of the church. That was the beginning of Clifton Night Hospitality, the first faith-based emergency shelter in Atlanta.
Thirty years later this November, Night Hospitality still provides food and shelter for thirty men every night of the year. The men are provided with counseling, case management, and are taught the self-respect that they need to transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. They are encouraged to seek employment and establish good habits for better health.
Though Clifton Presbyterian Church closed in 2003, the ministry still continues, sponsored mostly by Presbyterian churches in the Atlanta area. Each night, a church team or individual volunteers will come to the shelter and serve the evening meal to the men, providing them nourishment and hospitality. Volunteers also assist with teaching life skills, keeping the clothes closet full, doing laundry and a myriad of other tasks that go along with providing day-to-day support for 30 men.
In the summer of 2005, the shelter was set on fire by an arsonist. Twice. But the ministry continued and thanks to the wonderful support of Epworth United Methodist church, located in Candler Park, we quickly found a temporary location. We moved back into our home in October 2006, with a remodeled building, new equipment, renewed faith, and a greater vision of what God has planned for this important ministry.
We continue to be challenged and presented with new opportunities to serve. We hope that you’ll be inspired and excited by the great possibilities that exist at Clifton, and as the members of Clifton Presbyterian Church did in 1979, be compelled to action!