FCS Urban Ministries: focused community strategies



Coming Home to South Atlanta

FCS Ministries | 03.26.15 | No Comments »

Dorothy said it best: There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. One of the highlights for FCS is the ongoing work of our housing group, Charis Community Housing. Twenty-five percent of the homes in Historic South Atlanta (our focus neighborhood) are vacant. We know that these empty houses can be vulnerable spaces in our community, and that’s why Charis works block by block and street by street to bring families and residents back into these homes.




Charis provides wholesome, viable, mixed-income housing to the neighborhood. And the change happening in our community is evident. In fact, local Atlanta newspaper Creative Loafing recently featured South Atlanta in their 2015 Neighborhood Issue. It’s a celebratory moment to see our neighborhood acknowledged and highlighted in the city. The article reads, “In recent years the historically African-American community has seen re-investment by new neighbors and a commercial strip revamp including a thrift store, coffee shop, and bicycle repair shop that once housed a movie theater.”


We know that South Atlanta is home to many amazing neighbors, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to bring more energized residents to the area. We believe Charis has helped strengthen the community by providing beautiful, quality homes that residents can own.


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This spring, we have three new houses coming on the market. Two of homes are three-bedrooms, while the third is a four-bedroom house. We are actively seeking out new families to move into the community and be a part of the good things happening in South Atlanta. It’s exciting to watch empty houses become full again and know that as home ownership increases, the fabric of the community is strengthened as well.


If you or anyone you know is interested in living in our target neighborhood, you can find details about the houses for sale on Charis’ website. We’ve got three more homes in the construction process, so 2015 is already off to a booming start in our housing ministry.


We are grateful for all our supporters who walk with us in this stabilizing, consistent work. Unlocking a home for a new owner is truly a gift to that resident, as well as to our focus community. Please continue to support our housing work in South Atlanta as we continue to contribute to a neighborhood that is growing and thriving.



3 Steps Closer to the Opening of Carver Market

FCS Ministries | 03.19.15 | No Comments »

By Jeff Delp


It’s been a busy few weeks at the future Carver Neighborhood Market. The remodeling is in full swing, and we’re excited to share with you the changes that have been happening.


It won’t be much longer before we’ll be welcoming local shoppers into the store. In fact, we have tentatively planned the launch of the market for the week of April 20.


So what are some of the changes happening so far?


Hidden Gems


First, we started uncovering some of the buildings features that had been previously hidden. We demoed some drywall, and found exposed brick that we are cleaning and prepping to be the new walls of the store.




We also removed the ceiling tiles and created a more open, fresh feel for the store. Shout out to Christian Leadership Concepts Bible Study for helping us with this physical work to get everything ready!




Signs Everywhere


Getting signage in place has made the dream of the market come to life. It’s really happening! Olive Ryan, a neighborhood artist, painted the Carver Market logo on the outside of the building.


We also removed the now outdated South Atlanta Marketplace sign on top of the building and replaced it with signs for the new store. Now people passing by can start to see that they can soon stop for groceries!




Getting the Word Out


Neighbors are getting excited about the market. We hosted a campaign on social media to create a little buzz and spread the word about Carver Market. As our local supporters and members received our canvas tote bags, we asked them to post a pic on social media with their bag and their enthusiasm. Lots of kids are excited about the opening of the market!




See all the photos and updates on the store by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

As spring rolls into South Atlanta, the delight about the rebirth of our space is building. Everyone is eager to see the renovations complete and the produce stocked. It won’t be long now!

Join us as a market member to support and help us open our doors! Sign up here!

Is There A Silver Bullet to Ending Poverty?

FCS Ministries | 03.17.15 | No Comments »

By Jim Wehner


“How do we get started in our neighborhood?” It’s a question we hear often at FCS. People want to do good. They want to see neighborhoods transformed and poverty eliminated, and they are heavily invested in the mission of their organization and/or their community.




They may have researched community development or studied neighborhoods where the community turned a corner after a local school got new leadership or a business found success or a housing development thrived. When we’ve seen solutions that work, we are often eager to apply them in our context. We want to find that program or initiative that will unleash the change we desire so deeply for our communities.


After five neighborhoods and 38 years of ministry, FCS is often approached by enthusiastic, passionate practitioners eager to learn from our experience. In fact, three times a year we have between 50-80 people come visit FCS to learn how we “do” neighborhood-based community development.


Our experience has taught us, however, that poverty alleviation can be an elusive goal. And unfortunately, no silver bullet program exists. Our work in the neighborhood of East Lake, for example, was connected with the development of a local golf course. Now we are focused on Historic South Atlanta, where the company with the biggest swath of land is a towing company. What works well in one neighborhood is not guaranteed to work in the next.


Universal Principles


So the strategies and solutions we need in a new neighborhood must be new. Still, we cannot and do not toss out everything we have learned about addressing urban poverty as there are important tenets that remain the same. Here are three valuable practices we have applied in every community where we have worked:


#1 A “give away” paradigm does more harm than good. Countless books and examples exist to show charity programs that not only fail to relieve poverty, but produce dependence rather than freedom. We cannot solve chronic need with crisis (“give away”) response.


#2 Think long-term. In community development, long-term solutions are needed to answer chronic need. There will be short-term wins along the way, but true development simply has a longer timeframe than most of us assume at the beginning.


#3 Different neighborhoods demand different solutions. It’s not that neighborhoods are headstrong or resistant to all change, but their uniqueness requires custom strategies. Housing needs and solutions for one neighborhood may be different for an adjacent community. When you recognize this nuance and add flexibility to your process, your programs can be more successful.


Getting Started


Back to the original question, “Is there a silver bullet to ending poverty?” If the answer is no, then where do groups and organizations begin in their efforts to bring change? We recommend some simple ideas:


#1 Become a neighbor. Proximity transforms how you answer questions within a neighborhood. If you don’t live there, it’s very hard to build long-term solutions or identify the root of issues in the community. Not everyone in your organization or group needs to move in, but you ought to have clear neighborhood representation on your team.


#2 Listen first. Listening is one of the most important things on your task list. Build authentic relationships and participate in neighborhood events. Join in the local activities that are already addressing needs you experience as a member of the community, rather than issues you saw from the outside.


#3 Do not lead. Support others in the neighborhood rather than assuming a leadership role. This advice is especially important if you represent a demographic different than the neighborhood.


There is still a need for partnership and collaboration to bring lasting transformation to local neighborhoods. Some areas, including housing and economic development (jobs/businesses), require specific skill sets and capital investment that a neighborhood might need to draw from partner resources. When organizations work with community voices, they can discover together the most important needs of the neighborhood and the solutions that will help them reach their goals together.


There is no silver bullet to ending poverty. Neighborhood-based development demands long term community-focused commitment.


Photo credit: Christy Taylor

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Coming Home to South Atlanta

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