"I believe it's what St. Philip would have done, he wasn't afraid to out on the streets and preach the Gospel, to engage people, which included the homeless. St. Philip Neri was known as the apostle of Rome just because of that," he said.
In the beginning, Better Way Detroit partnered with the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department to clean up parks through their Adopt a Park program. They now also help the city clear out overgrown alleys and vacant lots that can pose safety problems to neighborhoods.
Cobb provides much need insight to the ministry for how to work with the homeless because he was once a homeless veteran himself, Djonovic said.
"I learn a lot from Marcus, he understands the homeless culture; he's very wise," Djonovic said. He said Cobb has taught him the importance of being attentive to even the smaller needs of the homeless, such as if they want cigarettes or water, and to let them know they are respected.
Cobb said it helps instill a sense of respect and responsibility to the homeless that they work with if they are given ownership of the projects in which they partake. Every job starts with an evaluation of the site and the work to be done, and the homeless workers decide how best to get the job done, he said.
"You give them ownership, ask them how it should be done. It gives them responsibility," Cobb said. "We get their input, and before you know it everyone's teaming up. It makes them feel important, it gets better results, and they put the word out because they know it's well worth their time."
Cobb said he believes the ministry has been well-received among the homeless because "it gives them something to look forward to, and a chance to give back, and to get back into society."
"Just because they're homeless...doesn't mean they don't want to give back or try to get back in to society," Cobb said.
It also appeals to the homeless because it gives them a chance to provide for some of their own needs "without a handout," he said.
The partnership with the city, which is significantly understaffed, has also worked well, Cobb and Djonovic said, because their team is often able to get to jobs that the city doesn't have the staff to do.
For example, the city gets a lot of calls from senior citizens who have lived in their neighborhoods for decades and have safety concerns about overgrown lots that may serve as hideouts or hubs for drug deals, Djonovic said.
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"One woman was just singing our praises" after they cleared up a vandalized, overgrown lot in her neighborhood, he said. "Once (lots) are exposed, they feel safer, especially for the sake of children."
Djonovic said he feels privileged to get to work alongside the homeless, and as they work, "sometimes I get to know their story, and they get to know my story," he said.
"It's happened a few times where guys ask me, why did you become a priest?" he said.
Every project concludes with lunch and a reflection on a bible reading. They have also handed out prayer cards to the homeless and do their best to connect them to housing, healthcare services, or other resources they might need.
"We at least just make them aware of the services available and encourage them to go, some guys aren't aware of (everything available)," Djonovic said.
Djonovic currently funds the ministry entirely out of his own pocket, and through any donations he receives for the project. All of the money goes strictly to needed materials such as gloves or shovels and to pay the homeless for their work.