Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spending the Holidays Alone

Mary spent Thanksgiving alone in her apartment.

She admits that a church friend did give her a call, late afternoon, to ask if she could drop a plate by. Mary already had food; what she wanted was companionship.

In 2001, Mary lost her job. As a divorced woman with no children, she found herself without a safety net. She lived in three different Indianapolis homeless shelters during her two year stint of homelessness. “I knew I didn’t like being out on the street (but it was) hard to live under rules (such as curfew) as an adult.”

“Once I got housed, it made me really appreciate it…being able to lock the door. You have your own door and key, you can cook in the kitchen if you want, or take a long soak in the tub. I like my privacy.” Mary has now been housed for eight years thanks to Shelter Plus Care and a partner agency, Partners in Housing.

 Because she was once a beneficiary of services, she is motivated to give back to the community that helped her become housed. Mary serves on the CHIP Advocacy Council and enjoys public speaking and volunteering at different events such as the annual Homeless Person’s Memorial. “Count me in- I used to be a homeless person. Just because somebody’s homeless doesn’t mean they don’t have value.”

Mary spoke to me today at a local coffee shop as I delved into her hopes for a mentor match. Mary says, “I feel like it will be nice to have a mentor.” She’s a little leery and not that trusting when it comes to relationships. She says that she’s been burned in the past. However, the prospect of companionship has promise.

When asked how a mentor could best support her now, Mary said three things: “Be committed. Be encouraging. Be prepared for anything because life has bumps in the road. Realize that we are all unique.”
As Mentor Match Manager at Trusted Mentors

Friday, October 19, 2012

Waiting to Exhale

Last night, as I thought about the events of the day, I wondered if I made any impact. Of course, my work as Mentor Match Manager is meaningful on a daily basis. Matching homeless mentees with loving, giving, caring mentors is a life-giving experience. Today was no different.

One woman in particular made an impact on me. Her story is really not so different from my own. We are about the same age, we are both single mothers and strong in our faith. The main difference in our walks today is that she has struggled with a drug addiction that has resulted in temporary separation from her three children. As she sat across from me in one of our partner women’s shelters, our eyes met and I shuddered as I processed how painful that experience must be.  With difficulty, she shared how her addiction tore through her life and ripped away the only constancy she has known: her relationship with her children.

She sat beside me, well dressed, attractive, and confident. Looking at her as a passerby, you would never guess her to be homeless. She simply doesn’t fit the image in our minds. Yet, she is. In fact, we have had more single moms in their thirties and forties referred to Trusted Mentors and now awaiting a mentor match than any other population over the past months.

My new friend shared how she had been in recovery before, and even racked up some years of clean time. She talked about how this time is different because she is getting the help that she needs from several local agencies, and because she is ready for a change. She shared how her two older children have watched her addiction nearly kill her, and have chosen to separate themselves from her life.  Although the experience of separation is heart-wrenching, she is able to see the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.

She inhaled deeply as she expressed gratitude for the chance to focus on herself, her own recovery and healing. Her life as a daycare provider, single mother, and survivor of domestic abuse has been trying and has not allowed her the space to heal. She is grateful for these moments to exhale, and to focus on her recovery 100 percent. She expressed faith that she will reunite with her children and that they will again live under the same roof in a home of their own.

She expressed gratitude for me as I begin to find a volunteer Trusted Mentor for her; as she knows she can’t walk this road alone. She is excited about the prospect of a healthy female relationship, one that is nurturing and life-giving, one that she has been longing for.

I am thankful for our mentors, just as she is.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mentoring is all about Relationship

I remember hearing a quote recently that really struck a chord. It went something like this “our society is good at giving to the poor, but not good about knowing the poor.” When I hear from potential and current mentors, the number one reason they decide to mentor can be summed up in one word:  RELATIONSHIP.

Mentoring is all about relating. I recently spent some time with one of our mentor pairs, Jean and Olivia (names changed for confidentiality). The mentee was taking care of a family member in need, and as a result, had put herself in a challenging situation. The mentor, recognizing this, helped her mentee walk through a resolution to the problem without damaging the family relationship.  This mentee is an ex-offender and was allowing her desire for restored family relations to override her decision-making.

This is a common scenario for our mentees who have been socially isolated due to homelessness or incarceration. Isolation breeds depression, and mental illness can result in another bout of homelessness for the mentee.

A second relational scenario comes to mind. One of our newer mentoring populations is youth aging out of the foster care system. One in four youth aging out of foster care ends up homeless.  One such young man was lucky enough to find a local program that assists these young adults in finding employment, education, and housing by the age of 25. This young man also found himself in an unhealthy living situation with his girlfriend. At a recent event, he shared with me how he “lost” himself in the relationship. Instead of working on his own goals for improvement, he focused solely on his girlfriend and her progress. Due to this dynamic, he ended up losing his housing, his transportation, and almost losing his employment. His mentor was able to support and encourage him in remaining housed, continuing his employment, and working towards applying to a local college. His mentor helped him  regain focus and stay encouraged.

Trusted Mentors has found that 90% of those being mentored remain housed while engaged in an active mentoring relationship through Trusted Mentors. Mentoring works because it is relationship-based.
Click on the link Youcanmentor. org for more information on how you can be a Trusted Mentor.  Find us on Facebook and Twitter!