Blog by Mike Carman
Finding a problem is usually pretty easy to do. Finding a solution can be more difficult. And carrying out that solution more difficult still.
Recognizing homelessness as a problem in our communities is pretty simple these days. However, effective answers that benefit all parties are tougher to articulate, and even tougher to implement. Especially if they require our participation.
At OC United, we’re using a transformative program called Jobs for Life to impact the lives of those experiencing homelessness at a local OC shelter, Bridges at Kraemer Place. JfL combines 8 weeks/32 hours of intensive training that not only focuses on marketplace skills for each student, but even more on character and identity formation. Using the Scriptures as our basis, we work through qualities like integrity, honesty, loyalty, and faithfulness, understanding that are tools needed not just for work but for life. We help students understand how God sees them, and not just how they have come to see themselves in the aftermath of too often being crushed by the world’s opinion of them.
But the real power of this program lies in the relationships developed by its champions. Champions are volunteers who serve as mentors with the students of the class. They go through class alongside them, then continue to journey with them for up to another 10 months. This relational connection is what makes the difference for most, and provides the power for transformation- and not just in the life of the student but in the life of the champion, as well.
David was a middle-aged man who joined us almost directly out of prison. A college graduate and successful family man, his poor choices and unforeseen circumstances took his life and that of his family’s in a bad direction, and he ended up behind bars. Upon joining the class, he connected with Bob, one of our champions who had been through the program once previously. Bob encouraged David as he set up interviews and worked hard to find employment. David graduated from the program, and he and Bob continued to meet weekly and assess his progress and development. Though discouraged, David was urged by Bob to not give up and to keep working at finding a place willing to look beyond his record and give him a second chance.
That chance finally came and David began work for a landscaping business. Although it was hard work, he persisted and found himself promoted to a team leadership position, complete with a salary bump! He remained faithful and hard-working and continues to do well to this day. David got connected in a local church, found housing, and even reconciled with family members.
What makes this story complete is that even though Bob’s 12-month commitment to mentor David has come to an end, he has no intention of walking away. Because in the midst of this life transformation, David’s life was not the only one impacted. Bob was also changed and that “assignment” he had with a man who was homeless became a friendship with a man named David. And it will continue long past the framework of a program.
We may not be able to solve the exhaustive problem of homelessness that we see around us. But we can touch the life of one man or woman, and help bring answers to their problem of homelessness. God may not expect us to have the answer for everyone, but He has given us the ability to help someone find answers that will change his or her life course. And in the process, perhaps even change something about us that may need God’s hand.
Is it easy? No? But our greatest accomplishments are never easy. Is it costly? You bet. There is a sacrifice of time, attention and maybe even some resources. But anything valuable comes with a cost. Is it doable? Absolutely! Because God can accomplish in and through us more than we could ask or imagine! Is it for you? (insert your response here…)