By STACEY HAIRSTON
Franklin County Faith Network is in search of mentors to help place its clients on the path to success.
A recent Point-In-Time count, which is a nationally HUD-mandated count that depicts a snapshot of an area’s homelessness rate, showed that there are nearly 50 homeless individuals living in Franklin County.
“These are not the people you would typically see sleeping on the streets,” said Sheila Andrews, executive director of Faith Network. “Most of the homeless people in our county sleep in their cars, in hotels or are doubled up with other people. They are bouncing around from place to place or are just really unstable in their housing situation.”
Mentors with Faith Network build relationships with those in need and help them to become more stable in their housing situations.
“With mentoring, instead of just giving them money – which is great – we’re trying to help them make different choices and become more stable in their houses instead of continuing the cycle of needing help,” Andrews said.
Mentors at Faith Network are volunteers who provide assistance to those who may find themselves in time of crisis. Those in need who are reaching out to Faith Network are paired with a mentor who will help them reach the goals of the service plan developed for them by the organization.
Based on a client’s demographics and preferences, he must agree to the terms of the program, which include mentoring, informed consent and a confidentiality agreement.
The client must agree to participate in the program for 90 days. The program includes face-to-face visits with mentors, assistance with meeting goals, spiritual leadership, transportation coordination, and assistance with accessing food banks, making appointments, searching for jobs, completing forms and budgeting.
“It’s mostly about relationship-building and helping our clients become self-sufficient and stable in their housing situations,” Andrews said. “We are looking for mentors who are compassionate, empathetic, persistent, reliable and committed to that person for the three to six months they are assigned to them. Mentors must really have a servant heart. It is quite a commitment every week.”
Faith Network currently has 12 active mentors.
“We really need 15 to 20 mentors,” Andrews said. “Right now, we are turning people away due to lack of trained mentors.”
Mentors undergo an eight-hour training course before being assigned to a client. Part of that training is online. The next training session is set for Feb. 25.
“Really, the most important part of this program is the relationship-building,” Andrews said.
Lucille Bowman has served as a mentor since the nonprofit’s founding in 2017.
“I work with some clients for a couple months and some for a couple years,” Bowman said. “It depends on what issues they have and what they need my help with. I’ve mentored around 17 people so far.”
Bowman said she guesses around 80% of the people she has helped are through the mentoring program are successfully back on their feet.
“I like to meet them in their home and meet them where they’re at, not where I’m at,” she said. “We discuss what their vision is and what needs I can help them with. We start small, with first-things-first, and try to get them back on their feet.”
Most of the clients are thankful for the help, Bowman said.
“Being a friend is the biggest thing,” she said. “Once they are signed out of Faith Network, I still stay in touch and try to still help. I get pretty close to them and take their problems very personally. I feel like I can help them better by doing that. Some keep in touch with me and some go on and do OK without me.”
Bowman said she feels the program has been a success so far and she loves mentoring. “I have a passion for helping people,” she said.
To learn more about how to become a mentor with Franklin County Faith Network, visit fcfaithnetwork.org or call 420-2560.