I was born February 16, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia. I lived in Atlanta until I was 18 years old, at which time I enlisted in the U.S. army. In the army I attended the University of Maryland Adult Education Program and was commissioned as a second Lieutenant through the army's OCS program. I served as an infantry officer for my entire military career. My experiences included the Airborne Ranger, Air assault, Scout platoon leader and company commander. I learned leadership, emotional and social interaction with many cultures, and observed peoplekind at their best and worst. When I left the army I had attained the rank of Major.
I stayed in Washington, D.C. working various jobs, including construction. That is when I began using crack cocaine which led to chronic homelessness. One day I looked at how my life was going and finally made a decision to change my life and enrolled in Victory Outreach, a Christian program for drug addiction.
After completing the program, I returned to Atlanta where I pursued construction work again. but within six months I was homeless again and using alcohol and crack. Again I got sick of being this way, but this time I called 911 and told them I had a drug problem and wanted help. They referred me to Fulton County Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, which had no beds available at that time. I slept outside in their front parking lot until I was accepted. Once I completed their 30 day program, I attended St. Jude's Drug and Alcohol Recovery Residential Program, followed by their aftercare program. While in a halfway house after finishing the St. Jude’s Program, I got interested in the twelve step program suggested by Alcoholics Anonymous and began to learn and apply all that I could.
I met Dante, a recovering substance abuser, and he became my sponsor, he taught me on a personal basis the first 164 pages of the big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous paragraph by paragraph. To prepare myself for helping others I attended Morehouse School of Medicine CORK Institute, an intensive substance abuse counseling training program. After I finished CORK, was an intern at Jefferson Place Transitional house. During this period I was going to NA and AA daily and taking group counseling and therapy classes.
Since my becoming sober I met and married Martha, my partner in the Atlanta Step Up Society Thrift store. Even though she is not a recovering substance abuser, she is as committed to helping the homeless as I am. She is willing to help me in the efforts I'm making and has become a central part of my plans for helping the homeless population, and without a doubt, I can honestly say she has been my primary inspiration when times were really hard in the beginning.
From 1996 to 2017 my wife and I have assumed personal loans on three houses and turned them into the Atlanta Step-Up Men's Residential Homes. We put all our personal savings into buying and renovating these homes. Our objective was to continue carrying the message of self-help to homeless men throughout the city of Atlanta by offering them a descent place to live and teaching the Big Book. Thinking we were going to retire, we closed the homes in 2017.
I strive each day hoping that with my desire and dream, I am making a dent in the homeless problem that the city faces, the way it worked in Step-Up Homes: once a homeless man changes from the inside he's to turn around and help another homeless person. That is our goal, not just to help one but many homeless people.
Through my experiences on the long road to recovery and my training and experiences working with other abusers, I believe I have developed an effective teaching style and philosophy to help people overcome helplessness and hopelessness. In addition to my regular 12-step teaching at Step-Up, I also work with several other recovery groups, and recently chosen to serve as a drug and alcohol counselor for St. Jude's Recovery Center, I've also been asked to provide counseling in Atlanta Public Schools.
Robert Gregory Barber