Within this article I will be discussing AtlLocalist’s 2019 Ethos and how this new mindset came about. Our approach to advocating for the homeless population of Atlanta is of becoming eye-level with this subculture and really trying to understand their paths and their motivations.
In December of 2018, Chris Henry and I launched AtlLocalist, a platform designed to tell the stories of citizens of Atlanta Georiga. Combined with a commonality in selflessness, we joined forces to get outside our comfort zones and become narrators of our city.
We had no idea how to formulate and produce content that would be digestible by readers. We didn’t understand the blog ecosystem or the fundamentals of making good content.
We just decided to dive in.
It was shortly after Christmas that we sought out to make AtlLocalist a real and tangible thing. Our target was the East Atlanta Beltline where hundreds of people spend their time walking and enjoying the city’s perimeter. We thought, “this will be so easy to find someone willing to be interviewed.”
We were mistaken. Badly mistaken.
We ended up walking around for hours. That was until we found Monica Evelyn Johnson. Ms. Johnson is a homeless woman that allowed me to interview her on the Jackson Street Bridge. With her being my first interview, the stakes were high to perform well enough that we can create a compelling story. However, the impact that Ms. Johnson put forth onto our lives well surpasses the property of a ‘compelling story’ that I initially sought.
Ms. Johnson was brought up poor and unwelcomed by her family. Her mother was told she would be deaf, mentally disabled, and blind. However, those predictions had no place in Monica’s life. She went on to inform us that she went on to attend Georgia Tech and studied Archeology. Due to her many health problems, she had to leave higher education so she could focus on surviving the streets of Atlanta.
It was through her discovery of Jesus that she was able to find a purpose after her abrupt departure for education. During the interview, she said, “I am rebellious at times. I don’t like rules, and that’s probably why I am in this situation.”
Exposure or interaction with homeless people gives you two options—to help the individual or an opportunity to judge. Within the ethos of AtlLocalist, we do not judge; instead, we seek to advocate. We strive to tell the stories of the people that create the blueprint of Atlanta. Monica Evelyn Johnson’s story struck us at our cores. We could not fathom the value or impact she has had on our lives, nor do we wish to understand it.
Her story and her persona touched our hearts with such passion and integrity that Chris and I’s mission statements have forever been altered. We now are scoping our projections on becoming closely knitted with the homeless and less fortunate communities of Atlanta. It is through these narrative stories that people can begin to understand the value and place our homeless population has within our great city.
“Stay in school. Because being homeless, being a thug, being a prostitute isn’t gonna work.” -Monica Evelyn Johnson