Friday, November 22, 2013

Shedding Light on Indy Homeless Camps

I walked down a set of steps and across a worn red carpet that led to the homes of strangers.  As I approached, I saw welcoming knick-knacks and decorations that created the picture of a happy home.  I was greeted by an older woman who had a big smile and a certain warmth about her that made me feel right at home.  Hidden among trees and brush next to the White River, I was standing in the middle of the woods. 

A few weeks ago I set out on an afternoon outreach mission with Bob Charlock from Food 4 Souls Ministry.  His daily agenda consists mostly of visiting homeless camps in Indy and offering a hand to those in need.  The idea is not to stop by and say "Hey, come with me, let's go to a shelter  and find you a job, and do all the things I think you need to do to get out of here!"  I've learned that it just doesn't work that way.  The purpose is to meet people where they are and allow them to set their own goals while being supportive in the process. 

It's hard to imagine how or why men and women end up living under bridges or in homeless camps.  Job loss (number one cause of homelessness), mental illness, chronic illness, and addictions are all components of homelessness.   I'm sure everyone can think of people in their lives who are not homeless living with one or more of these conditions.  What is the difference? Support.

During this experience I learned something really important:  our neighbors living in homeless camps or under a bridge are a community.  When I connected with the lady in the woods who had such a bright and kind smile, she warmed up to me immediately.  We chatted about normal things like her love of her pet, the weather, and how her job was going.  She really wasn't all that different from me-- she just doesn't have a roof over her head.  Homeless camps  have created a network of support for those living in them that keeps them from becoming isolated.  Humans need to have contact with other humans, and isolation can be detrimental--downright damaging-- to our well-being.   

The faces of homelessness aren't always what they seem.  I met former executives, people with college degrees, talent, skills, and faith.  Some are in recovery, and the only barrier between them and housing is employment.  It was important for me to learn and share that people facing homelessness aren't that different from those of us fortunate enough to have housing.  I know I would not be where I am today without all of the support I have received over the years from my family and friends.  Where would you be?

Leila Mortazavi is a social work intern with Trusted Mentors. Bob Charlock works with Food4Souls,  one of our partnering agencies. For more info or to become a mentor for the formerly homeless or incarcerated, check out our website at

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just "lucky to be here"

I’m just “lucky to be here” indicated James as he sat beside me in a local restaurant. “I’m the last person in the world who thought I’d be homeless.”

Looking at James, you’d understand his disbelief. He’s a well dressed, handsome, middle aged, well educated man whose life just didn’t pan out as he expected. But it didn’t happen overnight. His life came crashing down gradually over a period of seven very unlucky years. The hardship began with a painful divorce from his wife that resulted in several consecutive losses—his daily life with his beloved children, his home, his middle class life with all of its familiar comforts.

The next domino fell as James was laid off from his job of 20 years within the aviation industry where he worked as a Senior Tech Specialist and Project Manager for Boeing. Then the economy tanked, which made it difficult for him to transition to another job in the midst of a glutted job market in California.

Upon learning of his father and uncle’s failing health, James made a decision to move to Indiana to be with them during their final years. He’d already suffered the loss of his mother several years earlier.  At this point, James had roughly $20 in his pocket, along with the contents of his car. He lived in his car and stayed with family until both his uncle and father passed away. James was able to find various odd jobs to keep his head above water until his own health took a dramatic downturn.

“My heart stopped all the time.” James reports that he’d walk short distances and feel fatigued. Finally, he ended up in the hospital after passing out cold in the middle of the street one day. His doctors wouldn’t let him leave the hospital as they were concerned that he may have a “death experience”. After enduring an endless battery of tests, James was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and was gifted with a combination pacemaker/ defibrillator in April of 2013.

This fall, James was hired on as the House Manager for Gennesaret Men’s Recovery Home, a place that allows homeless men to recover from various surgeries and physical ailments. James is appreciative of Gennesaret and most enjoys listening to the other men coming into the home. “I know what they’re talking about because I was there--they let down their shield and open up to me-- because they know I can relate.”

I asked James about lessons learned from these life-changing experiences.  “I didn’t appreciate things—more importantly, I didn’t appreciate people, relationships. I didn’t even appreciate myself.” James looked into Dean’s eyes, his Trusted Mentor, as he shared this lesson. It’s evident that their relationship is one that both men appreciate. It’s one that’s reciprocal as Dean shares that he too had a life altering injury and has therefore reordered his priorities in life. He too has set aside more time for relationships, including the one that he shares with James.

Dean is a member of Grace Church and serves every Sunday with their Circle City Relief ministry downtown, feeding the hungry and homeless. Dean connected with Trusted Mentors because he wanted to do more—he wanted to walk with someone through the tough times. It turns out that Dean and James have helped each other heal in a relationship of reciprocal support.


Friday, September 27, 2013

The gift of presence

As I sat in the back of our neighborhood yogurt shop and listened intently to Dean and James, I realized that one of the greatest gifts that a mentor offers is simply this: presence.

In a society where time is a hot commodity, mentors leverage this asset in a powerful way. As I watched this mentor pair interact, it was evident that Dean has been a consistent presence for his mentee James during his time of transition out of homelessness. James spoke of a time when several days had gone by when he didn’t hear from his Trusted Mentor. James had been struggling personally, and Dean had been consistently messaging him or dropping a quick call. Because James had gotten used to Dean’s consistent support, he felt the void when it was absent. It turns out that Dean had his own personal emergency come up—thankfully, James was able to help him through it. Tables were turned and James was present for his mentor.

I often remind our volunteers that being a mentor is indeed more about “being” present than “doing” xyz for their mentees. A mentor is consistent, supportive, encouraging, uplifting, trusting, hopeful. A mentor is truly many thing--but presence is paramount.

 I recently heard from another woman who just began mentoring a young adult aging out of foster care who turns 22 next month and therefore loses financial subsidy.  I asked a more seasoned Trusted Mentor what his advice to her would be.  Andrew offered several practical ways she could help her mentee around issues such as financial responsibility.  And he ended his advice with these words: “Be there”.

In the book Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, etc. Putnam warns that our stock of social capital -- the very fabric of our connections with each other-- has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.

Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, and other factors have contributed to this decline. In my work with the homeless and at-risk community, I see the evidence of social isolation—loneliness, depression, hopelessness, despair. We are made for connection and something is lost in our human experience without these significant relationships.

 I frequently refer to Bowling Alone and Putnam’s findings when I share the benefits of the mentoring relationship—both for the mentor and the mentee. Mentoring is a way to reconnect relationally. Mentoring is as easy as giving the gift of your presence to another. Thanks to all of our Trusted Mentors—thanks, Dean, Vanessa and Andrew, for being there.  If you’re interested in connecting as a Trusted Mentor, please checkout our website at or email


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mentors Bridge the Gap

Two words struck a chord while reading the Indy Star article on the Davidson Street homeless camp closing this Monday:  family and community.

I first visited the Davidson Street camp a couple of months ago and was immediately struck by the number of refugees living there—from Sierra Leone, from Liberia, from Haiti, from other war torn countries. Mostly young men, all without families, several escaped homes that had been ravaged by civil wars, genocide, and natural disasters.

These young men had enjoyed some of the opportunities provided to them by the U.S., not the least of these being the opportunity to obtain a college education. A couple of the young men shared with me that they had completed one to three years of higher ed until tragic bits of their stories caught up to them in the form of mental illness. PTSD and Depression are common among this group, as well as the general population living under the bridge and in our communities as homeless neighbors.

A new friend, Leroy, a refugee from Liberia, shared that he had secured a job, an apartment-- stability. However, due to a glitch in the system, he ended up losing benefits that he needed to make rent; therefore, he  lost his housing and found himself living under the bridge. It was evident during my interactions with Leroy and the others that the bridge had become their community. The “Lost Boys”, as we call them, had found each other under the bridge and created their own family.

As Mentor Match Manager at Trusted Mentors, I work primarily with the formerly homeless population, matching these men and women with volunteer mentors. Mentors help bridge the gap from life on the streets to a more stable and hopefully fuller life. What the city, and many others, fail to recognize is that, regardless of the morality of the bridge closing, a community, multiple “families” were displaced, were separated, were torn apart on Monday. To make the transition from homelessness to stability will require the time, energy and efforts of all of us, of the broader community, to bridge the gap.
Mentor trainings held monthly. Call 317-985-5041 or email us at for more info or to RSVP for training.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mentoring...from cradle to grave.

As one of my good friends turned 50 this year, she celebrated this occasion by logging nearly 550miles trekking El Camino in Spain. My friend is in the prime of her life-- enjoying travelling the world, running her own editing business, and giving back to the community in many ways as a volunteer.

In sharp contrast to her story, my 50 year old formerly homeless friend who passed away a few days ago was not the picture of health. When I met him, roughly five years ago, he was living in an abandoned house down the street from my urban office. He was squatting in his family home that was foreclosed  following  his job loss and ensuing debt. J was a college graduate, an intelligent man, but a combination of substance abuse and failing health caused his bout of homelessness. Unfortunately, hard living in addition to a chronic heart condition caught up to him and ended his life early. J was a Trusted Mentors mentee.  

A partnering agency case manager once commented, “We work with society’s cast-aways.” In reality, many of our mentees have been rejected by society, abandoned by family, and burned bridges with friends and colleagues. Many others, by deciding to “live life differently,” have walked away from friends or connections who supported their addictions or lives of crime. Either way, the formerly/ homeless and re-entry populations are at high risk of loneliness and isolation. Fortunately for J, his Trusted Mentor was able to build a quality relationship with J during the final years of his life. Still, J died alone.

One elderly mentee who is a PIH resident comes to mind as I think about our aging homeless population. Beth is in her seventies and lives alone at Partners in Housing. She has no family connections as she’s divorced and never had children. Her agency case manager referred her to Trusted Mentors because Beth (not real name) “desires companionship.”  At this stage in her life, she has no lofty goals involving education or career: she simply wants to experience some enjoyment in her life and is in need of a friend. I relish reading the reports from her mentor who shares stories of outings that the two of them enjoy together. Beth raves about the joy she shares with her mentor as they participate in community events and re-engage in hobbies (Beth is a retired artist and loves First Fridays!). I know that Beth’s mentor is adding quality to her life, during her final years.

The isolation and loneliness that plague the formerly homeless aging population can be detrimental. Loneliness may increase the risk of death among the elderly, but the health effects of social isolation may be greater than those of loneliness, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Maintaining social contacts and reducing isolation are particularly important as we think of quality of life and future longevity.

At Trusted Mentors, we like to say that we mentor from “cradle to grave” as many of our young adult mentees are parents. The impact that our mentors have on their lives trickles down to their children. On the other side of the spectrum, please consider mentoring an older adult with Trusted Mentors. The joy and enriching value our mentors receive from their relationships with their mentees is life-changing.  If you are interested, please contact us through our website at or by calling our offices at 317-985-5041.  


Thursday, July 11, 2013

A mentor can be a real saving grace...

I just returned from a match meeting and, as always, it was illuminating and inspiring.

What continues to make an impression on me is the strength of the human spirit as exhibited through our mentees. I sat in the room this afternoon with a woman, a mother, who had over the last year lost her son, endured a bitter divorce, lost her job, her home, and has had to manage a debilitating illness. Yet, this woman’s spirit still lit up the room.

Her story, unfortunately, is not uncommon. Yet her inner strength and resilience is one that boggles the mind. I often encounter mothers who have lost children due to the system, to an ex-spouse, to domestic violence, sometimes even to death. As a mother myself, nothing cuts deeper then the idea of losing my child.

The depth of human spirit that can resurrect a joyful soul out of the ashes of loss is dumbfounding. What is just as exceptional is the willingness to step out again in relationship. Our mentees have all experienced losses (mentors too!), yet they continue to take steps forward. Opening up to a new mentor relationship is an act of faith; it opens the mentee up to potential hurt or disappointment that accompanies any new relationship. They are “putting themselves out there” relationally: they are vulnerable. They are taking a risk.

This mentee freely admitted that her trials are not yet over. Her son is back in her home, thanks to support and advocacy from her referring agency and others; however, her housing is still unstable and employment is a question as her illness has barred her from moving forward.

Our mentees are invited to share their goals with their new mentor during their first meeting. Many of them hesitate, desiring to focus on the relationship and building trust first. However, this particular mentee filled up the page with goals…and with hope. As she moves towards stability, with her mentor guiding and supporting her along the way, I will fervently enjoy watching her blossom. I share her faith and hope in the future.

Trusted Mentors is the only agency focusing 100% on mentoring adults to combat homelessness and to improve outcomes for young adults aging out of foster care and for individuals exiting the criminal justice system. If you are interested in being a volunteer mentor, please visit our website at to complete a mentor application.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Life is not a Reality Show

When "Tanya" aged out of foster care, her life was a far cry from the reality TV depictions that have captivated much of America. Tanya’s challenges have real-life consequences and hurdles that must be overcome in order to truly succeed. Read more…

As she began a college career, Tanya had to juggle both her work schedule and the responsibilities of single motherhood. Her busy lifestyle and the very real demands she faced resulted in poor grades in her classes. Consequently, Tanya lost her financial aid, began accruing college debt, and had no clear or easy path to return to school.
Without a college degree, Tanya did her best to secure entry level jobs for a young adult. She attempted restaurant/catering work, customer service, and childcare settings; but struggled to meet the scheduling demands due to inconsistent and unreliable child care and transportation issues.

As Tanya continues to map out a plan for her future, a mentor can help explore a variety of options—a good listener provides a great sounding board. A mentor helps Tanya frame stumbling blocks not as “failures” but as learning opportunities to discover what works and what doesn’t for a young single mother.
Forming healthy relationships can be hard. Tanya shares that she’s had to leave several long term friends behind as she moves in a positive direction. She has recently started a positive, healthy relationship with a young man in the military, but Tanya wonders how to “have a healthy relationship” in the long-term.  She lacks healthy role models and has multiple fears and anxieties that come from past trauma in relationships.  

Tanya is connected with a local counseling agency that can help her develop healthy relationships, parent her son, and work through the emotional issues that come with the recent loss of a foster parent.
Tanya checks in with her mentor, even though they have been together for years. She also stays in touch with the Trusted Mentors staff. At the present time, Tanya needs all the support she can get – and Trusted Mentors is happy to provide the additional encouragement Tanya desires during her transition out of foster care.

Trusted Mentors has recently partnered with the Children’s Bureau to recruit, train, match and support volunteer mentors with more young adults aging out of foster care. We are excited about this partnership and the benefits that will be reaped by those in our community like Tanya.

Please contact Trustsed Mentors to inquire about becoming a trained Trusted Mentor. You can email or call (317)985-5041.      


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Power of Forgiveness

The room was still except for one powerful voice. Our guest speaker, Tim Streett, held the room’s attention as he shared his fateful story of coming to forgiveness.

Tim Streett is presently the assistant director of Shepherd Community, but his ministry work was not the focus of his talk at tonight's Trusted Mentor Recognition Night. His words carried a much more solemn tone as he shared his story of his father’s dramatic murder, which he witnessed as a teen here in Indianapolis, and his ensuing path to forgiveness.

Tim’s road to forgiveness wasn’t a straight path as he took several detours with drugs and alcohol during his college years. He related that he felt a hole in his chest that was “God-sized” and used substances to try to fill that empty void--to no avail. His emptiness could not be medicated.

Tim eventually found the courage to forgive his father’s murderers by reaching out to these men who were serving life prison sentences. Tim talked about forgiveness as an “action” that serves as the first step to inner healing. Tim shared that he wasn’t able to release his anger and bitterness within until he took the critical step of forgiving his father’s killers.

As I panned the room filled with mentors and mentees-- men and women with various backgrounds including ex-offenders, formerly homeless individuals, and young adults aging out of foster care-- I could almost see the message seeping in.

One female mentee is still dealing with her own anger toward an abusive parent. In adulthood, her anger had turned into bitterness and then severe depression that was exasperated by job loss—this tragic mix led to a bout of homelessness for her.

One young man was working on forgiving his mother for giving him up for adoption and forgiving his father for never being present in his life.

I could only imagine some of our other mentees who’d served their own prison sentences for various crimes and how they struggle with their own paths to forgiveness, including forgiving themselves.

Yet, through all of these trials and hurts, each mentee has developed a relationship with a mentor. These relationships can set the foundation for healing past wounds.  The road to healing can be long; however, anyone who’s been hurt has been hurt in relationship with other people. Significantly, we’re also healed through healthy relationships, the kind of relationships that are formed through Trusted Mentors.   

 I am grateful for our mentors who are walking alongside their mentees along their paths to wholeness.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Close to Home

 A lot of the Trusted Mentor stories are emotional, but this particular one is personal.

About 8 years ago, I started working in an urban community where I have eventually settled in as a homeowner. The agency I worked for, and am still connected to, equips and empowers low-income families as they pursue their dreams of first-time homeownership.

One of my first families was a single mother named Julie (not real name), with two teen children. Julie had recently completed a program in administration at Training Inc. and was fortunate enough to land a nice-paying job immediately following graduation. Julie had paid off her debt, began saving, and came to our agency ready to become a homeowner. She was so excited to build a legacy for her family by having something to pass on to her children. This accomplishment was especially sweet as Julie had grown up in the foster care system and had lived in multiple shelters and group homes, experiencing an unstable childhood--to say the least.

Over a year ago, Julie’s house burned down while the family was away on Thanksgiving break. The family returned home only to find a charred shell of a house. By this time, Julie had lost her nice-paying job and was unemployed. The tragedy of losing a home was too much to bear, so the family decided to start over in another state.

About a month ago, I received a phone call from Julie, indicating that her daughter, Camille, who recently turned 18, had decided to move back to Indianapolis to reunite with friends and her network of support. Her goal was to enroll into a local older teen/ young adult transitional home, go to school and start her career. Unfortunately, things have not worked out as orderly as she planned. Camille called me soon after arriving in Indy with a frightening plight. The family that she had planned to stay with lost their housing and she would soon be homeless in February. Since she didn’t have the necessary ID (many homeless folks don’t), she had to seek help from an agency who sent off for paperwork…a 3 week or more wait ensued. In the meantime, she’s been staying in a homeless women’s shelter and has already started working on her GED.

As she waits for her ID so that she can enroll into the homeless transitional housing, a more stable environment, she tries daily to keep her spirits up. While working with a partner agency to coordinate services for her, the young case manager has indicated to me that the most important thing we can do now is surround Camille with a network of support. I talked to her about matching Camille with a Trusted Mentor and she jumped at the opportunity, stating that one thing that makes a difference for these young adults trying to make it is positive adult support.

So, the three of us have set a lunch date to cheerlead Camille. I am happy that she will also be our newest mentee awaiting a Trusted Mentor to develop a meaningful relationship of support. I will stay involved in Camille’s life for some time to come, and I look forward to adding a mentor to her support network. Please consider becoming a mentor to encourage folks like Camille.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Help Trusted Mentors make it to the FINAL FOUR!

Bring on your Sweet 16 Enthusiasm to support Trusted Mentors!


GREAT NEWS! Trusted Mentors is one of 16 teams participating in "Brackets for Good" (BfG), a fundraising/awareness campaign during the month of March. Playing on March Madness, nonprofits "play" in a single-elimination bracket-style competition. The winning agency receives a $5,000 prize.


Starting Monday, March 4 at 12:00AM, TM will face the Youth Mentoring Initiative (YMI).


How do we win?  We collect more "points" (i.e. dollars) by Sunday, March 10 at 11:59:59PM. When we win, we advance to the next round! We need to win 4 rounds to receive the $5,000 prize.  Click here for the full bracket and where to donate 


How good is our competitor?  Based on last year, we need to raise a minimum of $2,500 to win our first bracket. (YMI competed last year and was able to raise $2,367 in the first rd and won. In Rd. 2 they raised $2,135 but lost.)


Good news! We’re starting with a $1,000 donation from Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee. They have agreed to give us this via CC on the BfG site.


Our goal is to raise at least $1,500 in week one! That means 150 people to donate $10! Or  75 donate $20!   (But we don’t have to stop there.)


Thank you and let's get fired up to WIN!


Robert & Jeri


 PS - There's no fee to participate; thus, Trusted Mentors keeps 100% of the donations. BUT a 12% surcharge + .30 is added to the donation to cover the cost of Brackets for Good.  So $10 is $11.52 and $20 is $22.74.


PPS – Donate early so that we can get a big lead.  Then watch Sunday, March 10th to see if we can hold the lead.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inspired to Give Back- One Volunteer Makes the Connection

One of my favorite things about my role as Mentor Match Coordinator at Trusted Mentors is learning what truly inspires people to volunteer.

Yesterday afternoon, I met with a talented, bright, and compassionate young business woman who so succinctly verbalized why she wants to be a Trusted Mentor.  Her thoughts were powerful enough to share.

As a young, upwardly mobile twenty-something, Mae sauntered in to the mentor interview dressed neatly in a gray suit and peacoat with her hair pulled back. We initially met during our Bags 2 Riches Gala where she volunteered as part of the planning committee. Her infectious energy and friendly demeanor made her a standout amongst the volunteers that evening and I knew I wanted to recruit her as a mentor.

Mae shared, “My life motto is to make a difference, to profoundly impact someone’s life for the better.” She stated that she feels our “deepest impact is made through close relationships.”

She spoke about our mentees, who are coming out of recent homelessness or incarceration, as people who have “a lot to admire.” They are “resilient and have fight and are able to empathize more” with others who are struggling.  She also talked about the mentee population in general as being nonjudgmental of others who have experienced hardships.

I then posed the following interview question to Mae: “How do you understand a mentor to be different than a rescuer?” Her answer was poignant, striking a chord with me. She said that the difference is, rescuers take action and the evidence of their work is external. A service is provided such as a hot meal or a warm winter coat. Mentors, on the other hand, focus on internal change. Through longer term, meaningful relationship, mentors impact what happens within their mentee so that sustainable change occurs. In other words, mentors don’t look for quick fixes--they work relationally.

When asked what she hopes to gain from a mentoring experience, Mae spoke of her desire to meet people that she “wouldn’t normally get the chance to meet” in her normal day to day life. “Everyone has a story” to share. Mae admits that she’s working on developing her listening skills, as she rightly asserts that listening is paramount as a mentor--as it is in any good relationship. Add in a dash of compassion, empathy, and commitment and Mae will certainly make an impact as a Trusted Mentor.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Resources & Relationships

As an employed single parent, I probably have hit my lowest poverty level this year. It’s been a year of transitions, as I’ve gone down to part-time at one non-profit due to financial constraints and have picked up a part-time position at Trusted Mentors (which I am so thankful for!). Child support, as many single moms know, isn’t always steady. And finally, my roommate, who has helped me in more ways than one and brings in some extra rental income, has moved out.

Therefore, as I explore the Bridges Out Of Poverty framework, I have some serious context to draw from my own life. Recently I had an interesting discussion with Afia Griffith, director of community development at St. Vincent Health, who will be coordinating our Bridges training later this month, about some of the dynamics of poverty that I’ve been experiencing…or am I?

Sure, I’ve gone months without a paycheck. Sure, I’ve learned not to rely on child support. Certainly, I’ve given up on the idea of saving for retirement anytime soon. Yet, I still realize that there is a great divide between my situational poverty experience and those experiencing generational poverty.

The poverty I’m experiencing, albeit relative, (I’m not exactly living on $2 a day like most of the world), is temporary. I have my degree, I have my house, and I have already bounced back enough to replenish most of my savings that I carved into this year. The two primary things have going for me that folks in generational poverty don’t have are: resources and relationships.

I thought seriously about one way my resources/ relationships played themselves out this past year. I have a daughter who has been diagnosed with a developmental eye disorder that requires weekly therapy from a developmental optometrist. Of course, there are only three in the entire city and the one who takes our insurance is located in Brownsburg. Now, I live and work downtown and my daughter attends a school that is also downtown. For me to take her to this appointment would require me to leave work three hours early every Wednesday, thus missing out on roughly 12 hours of pay per month. Add in gas money and you can see that this endeavor is getting a bit pricey. Keep in mind that this is therapy my daughter needs in order to do things like read, so it’s not exactly optional.

So, digging into my resources and relationships, I am fortunate that I have not one, but two grandparents who are able to take the time and energy to drive from their north-side homes downtown to pick up my daughter and take her to the far west side so that I don’t miss work and so that my daughter can benefit from needed therapy.

As a social worker, and previously a school social worker in IPS, I think about all of the students whose parents don’t have the blessing of multiple sources of support to help them get their needs met.

Keeping with the subject of my daughter, I have had the benefit of countless key resources to help in raising her that others living in generational poverty simply don’t have…here I will name a few: 1) Health Insurance, 2) Grandparents who are healthy, mobile, live in town, and were able to retire, 3) A background in social work, which led me to know what resources are out there for my child who was labeled “ADHD” even though I knew there was something deeper going on, 4) A church community, including a friend who is a physical therapist and helped me figure out what was going on with my child, 5) Two understanding employers who are also friends and give me freedom to take off work when I need to ( instead of firing me when I have to miss hours or days as I’m taking care of my daughter). My list of resources and relationships is actually too exhaustive to complete here.

As I contemplate poverty, I see how close I am to it, yet how fortunate I have been to remain out of its clutches entirely. Through my work at Trusted Mentors, I hope to help others gain a new perspective on the realities of poverty too. We will gather several of our mentors and agency partners later this month as Trusted Mentors hosts a workshop on Bridges Out of Poverty. I am thankful for our mentors as they are indeed providing a key relationship and connections to resources that our mentees so desperately need.