Violet Line has always had a sense of compassion for the homeless. So when she and her husband John relocated to Columbus to take care of her mother-in-law, she saw the many homeless in the area and decided that she needed to do something to help.
Line, who helped start an organization called “Angels on a Mission” in her former home of Calumet, Michigan, decided to open a resale shop and resource center to help the homeless in the Columbus area.
In Michigan, Line was one of the people who ran the Angel Mission Free Store, an establishment that ran on donations and people could come purchase items from the store by giving whatever donation they wanted, or take it for free. The organization also housed the homeless for short periods of and tried to connect them with employment, food, and drinking/drug rehabilitation programs if they needed it.
“We opened up the whole apartment building above us and would house them for two weeks,” said Line. “During that time we tried to help them find other resources and in exchange they had to stop drinking and doing drugs.”
Line said she and her husband have working with the homeless since they moved to Columbus four years ago. “We were already doing a feeding and clothing program through our house,” said Line. “We reached out to them doing assessments to see if they needed medical care and talked to them.”
“What they kept telling us was that they had already used up all their resources and that no one wanted to help them anymore.”
Line signed a lease on a downtown shop at 415 Main St. on Nov. 3, 2012 and opened “Angels on a Mission” a resale shop where the homeless and those in need can go, and Line and her staff of volunteers will try to help.
A sign on the window reads “Angels on a Mission LLC. is a resale shop of everyday items. All proceeds stay in Columbus to help the homeless and the ones that had a tragic situation arise. All donations are greatly appreciated. Angels on a Mission thanks you for your support. We are here for God’s grander purpose.”
Line says she asks the homeless she sees to come into the store so she can provide them with food, clothing, and whatever they need that she can give. “We partner with a local motel so they can show, we feed them, clothe them, and I give them haircuts – whatever they need that we have. In exchange, they volunteer.”
The shop is also being used as a resource center. “Some people come in and use our internet to get their GED’s and complete job applications and resumes,” said Line.
In just over a month, Line has helped seven men come off the homeless list and find jobs. Four of them are staying in Lowndes County and sharing an apartment. The other three have moved away. One is now making $27 an hour. Many are sending money back to the mission.
Line talks to the homeless every day and said she thinks some people have the wrong impression about them.
“Sometimes I get the perception that people think they are just out there to get whatever they can, and some homeless are just looking for a handout, but many have just fallen into a situation they didn’t expect to be in and want out. When I give them something they already have, like a toothbrush or basic items, they’ll tell me ‘no, we already have that, save that for someone else.’”
Line said in Michigan at the Free Store, people could come and get whatever they wanted, but she was told that that arrangement wouldn’t work here. However, Line said she is willing to change a price to help someone who needs the item. “The prices aren’t set in stone here,” she said. “If you need some clothes for your children but don’t have enough, I’m going to work with you on that.”
Line also provides home items and clothes for people who have suffered a tragedy like a house fire.
Her mission, she says, is “to make Columbus a better place.”
There are some she knows she cannot help. Line says she draws the line at people who are not willing to stop doing drugs or drinking. “I just can’t help them until they are willing to step away from that.”
Line said all proceeds after bills are going to stay in Lowndes County. Her plan is to eventually open a savings account with the profits and use it to further assist the needy.
“We aren’t in a position to give away any money right now,” she said.
They also plan to apply for funding and grants to open housing for the homeless and are currently in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization officially.
“Once the funding is available, we want to be able to get people into houses, but they have to be willing to do Alcoholics Anonymous and get help. We never want to sponsor some party house.”
Line said she understands that some people may question the effectiveness of what she is doing. “This is a program that has never been facilitated here before. People are leery of new things. But I know it will work. It has worked before and it is already working now.”
Angels on a Mission will take donations of any kind, but is in most need of household, kitchen, and bathroom items. Furniture, towels, and food are also gladly accepted, as are volunteers.
“When you’ve had a fire or are coming off the homeless list, you need more than clothes,” said Line.
Angels on a Mission is located at 415 Main St. and can be contacted at 662-570-4513.0