Mentors Needed in Central Indiana — and It’s a Great Way to Help Your Community

"When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself." – Tibetan Proverb

I’ve been involved with Trusted Mentors in Indianapolis for about six months now. In that short period of time, I’ve built a relationship with someone and watched him make tremendous strides in finding employment, his own place to live and even gaining custody of his son. I’m sure our relationship has been as beneficial to me as it has to him, and I’d like to ask others in Central Indiana to consider becoming a mentor.

In Indianapolis, we are fortunate to have organizations like Horizon House to provide social services for those in need — and based on what I’ve seen, they do amazing work. But that support can only go so far and last so long. It’s up to members of our community to step up by donating time as well.

There are plenty of folks in the Indianapolis area who could use the help, and your support could just be the tipping point they need to stay on the right track and avoid the perilous trap of homelessness. The commitment is just a few hours per month, and there is currently a strong need for more mentors — and the largest need is for women over 30 years old (mentors and mentees are always the same sex, and often around the same age).

Here’s some more info on the organization:

Trusted Mentors provides volunteer mentors to adults at risk of homelessness. Building on its success, it has expanded its mission to include other populations at risk of becoming homeless, including low wage earners, ex-offenders and young adults aging out of foster care. It uses the power of mentoring to help adults establish stable lives by reducing the chaos brought about by poverty, homelessness, underemployment and the effects of incarceration. These person-to-person mentoring relationships improve lives by developing life skills and positive social networks that empower people to:

  • Remain housed
  • Make a positive contribution to the local community
  • Stay or become employed
  • Advance their education
  • Stay out of jail
  • Improve parenting skills

"The opportunity for mentoring at-risk adults in Central Indiana is significant," explains Trusted Mentors Match Director Craig Neef. "In Marion County, approximately 7,000 people are homeless sometime during the year. In excess of 5,000 ex-offenders are released and re-enter the community each year. Trusted Mentors works with partnering agencies that provide an array of services for low wage earners, ex-offenders and young adults who are aging out of foster care. We work closely with the case managers in these organizations to complement their efforts with mentoring services leading to more successful outcomes."

For more information, feel free to contact me about my experience at [email protected] or (317) 264-7541. Or you can reach Neef directly at [email protected] or (317) 985-5041. We hope to hear from you.

Goldsmith: Thinking Differently About Government

In a column for Governing, former Indianapoils Mayor Stephen Goldsmith analyzes how we think about government, and credits public officials who have made strides toward combating homelessness and enhancing school choice in America:

Private companies think about their "value proposition" all the time. What are we doing for our customers that make them happy to pay our price?

Government services usually don’t come with a price, but government managers should examine their value proposition just the same. In fact, revisiting "why" an agency is involved in a particular activity can be a crucial step in finding better, faster, cheaper ways of delivering value to citizens and taxpayers. While mayor of Indianapolis, I witnessed well intentioned public officials outsource an activity with the result that we became more efficient at accomplishing an obsolete process.

Getting the value proposition right unlocks better and cheaper results more than any single other thing government can do. Consider New York City’s effort to address homelessness. At one time, the city saw itself primarily in the business of providing shelter. In 2002, more than 33,000 people were living in city run shelters each month–no matter how many shelters were opened, they always seemed full.

Then Mayor Michael Bloomberg put Linda Gibbs in charge of homeless services. Upon taking over, Gibbs asked herself a simple but powerful question: What is our purpose? What is the value that we are attempting to deliver to citizens?

The answer to that question prompted an insight. Gibbs realized that her job wasn’t to run homeless shelters. Her agency existed to help people who were homeless–to reduce the need for emergency shelter, in fact.

Gibbs looked around and discovered that all her agency’s efforts were directed at running shelters. As Gibbs later observed, "We were smart enough to know how to help the clients’ underlying needs, but you put them in the shelters and suddenly the shelters became the solution, which is turning the world upside down."

Gibbs soon redefined the agency’s goal from serving the homeless to reducing homelessness and redirected resources to prevention. The new approach worked. By 2008, of those receiving this more comprehensive assistance, more than 90 percent had not reentered shelters within one year of being served. (For details about how this was accomplished see the Harvard Kennedy School case study, Overhauling New York City’s Approach to Shelter.)