Sometimes you just need an ally.
Mentorship is one of Elk Grove HART’s core values. Guests in HART’s Grace House and Meadows House transitional homes are each paired with a mentor from the Elk Grove community who supports them through the challenges of finding work and housing.
Frank Lucia, a co-founder of HART, worked in the Elk Grove Unified School District for 36 years including 16 as a high school principal. Lucia assists his fellow co-founder, Debbie Schoeneshoefer who coordinates HART’s mentorship program. He says the mentoring partnerships are essential. “We’re not just interested in sheltering people and then moving them on. The mentoring program helps us bring people to a self-sufficient behavior or attitude.” HART’s mentors make a major difference in the lives of our guests.
From the very beginning, these partnerships have enabled guests in HART’s transitional housing to gain confidence and life skills. Lucia explains that each person who moves into Grace or Meadows House must agree to participate in a mentorship. “The reason for that is you’ll be transitioned out of the house and when that happens, our goal is that you’ll be in a better place and that you’ll be able to start making wise decisions without a lot of handholding.”
Since its inception, the mentorship program has worked well. “The very first person that we took into the program was an individual that was in his early 40s. He had hearing issues. He was living in his car that had broken down, and he wasn’t working,” Lucia says. “I spent some time with Gary. Through some interview coaching, he obtained a job in town.” Lucia still sees him on a regular basis. “Gary has gone from a broken down car with no money to paying his own rent. He has his own apartment. He pays his own bills and he’s working full time, and he has a car that functions. He may not have even survived without HART.” Gary is just one of many HART success stories.
Often, guests from Elk Grove HART’s Winter Sanctuary will transition into Grace or Meadows House. “It’s definitely a pathway,” says Lucia as he describes two women from EG WINS who recently obtained full-time jobs in Elk Grove with the help of their mentors.
“The challenge with the program from day one has been finding the right people to serve as mentors,” he says. HART is always in need of volunteers. What does a good mentor need? “Availability, communication skills, and most importantly, patience. A lot of our guests just need somebody to talk to,” Lucia says, “and so that’s how it begins. We encourage the mentor to let that person talk. Trust is a huge factor.” He explains that it’s important that mentors try to set aside their own feelings, and just say “I’m walking with this person, I’m going to try to get them to a better place.” Mentors meet regularly and receive training from HART in partnership with a local psychologist and Sacramento Self Help Housing.
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Elk Grove HART through our website: elkgrovehart.org/volunteer/volunteer-form.