AwareNow: Issue 28: The Mental Edition

Page 149



IMAGINE LA: MENTORING WITH SUSTAINABLE SUPPORT How do we end the cycle of family poverty and homelessness? Together… as one. Imagine LA prevents first-time and repeat homelessness and equips families to maintain housing stability and thrive longterm. Together with families they transform lives through a unique combination of clinical case management, economic mobility pathways, and whole-family mentorship. Jill Govan Bauman is the President & CEO of Imagine LA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing the community to ending the generational cycle of homelessness and poverty. JILL: People don't want be homeless. They get there and go, “Huh?! How did these stepping stones end me up here?” What's interesting from a statistical viewpoint is family homelessness. Imagine LA is 1000% dedicated to families — ending homelessness and poverty. With family homelessness, over 90% of it is either driven by economics or domestic violence. People get into this mindset of homelessness and say it's drugs, it's mental health, it's this, and it's that… But for families, it's economics, that may be because of a health issue, that may be because of a job loss, that may be because of five other things happening at the same time that you didn’t have no control over. It's economics. You can't pay the rent or you’re fleeing for your safety and your mental health. And that may also be economic because you were in a relationship where you were stranded. The money dominance was the power… You stayed is because you didn't have any money.

ALLIÉ: In addressing homelessness, it’s a matter of looking at the ‘why' of it, right? You have said that you want to do the research. You referenced an iceberg. We have to understand what’s below the surface before addressing what’s above the surface. If we’re only fixing what we see, we're not fixing the right thing, right?

JILL: Yes. And I like to think of it as not necessarily ‘fixing’ but ‘embracing’. Once you know what's going on with the family, where they are and where they want to go, you can come alongside and help… but you're not ‘fixing’. They're doing the work ultimately. They're saying ‘yes’. They’re showing up. They’re doing the work. They’re saying yes to mentorship, yes to a new job, yes to getting regular checkups, and saying yes to getting help too. That's one of the things I've really learned over the years, is coming alongside in a human way and providing choices. It’s not saying “You should.”, it's saying “You could.”

ALLIÉ: It doesn’t seem that complicated when you put it like that.

JILL: It's as basic as that. I think we, especially people with privilege, do the ‘down the nose’ thing and it is just not productive on any level. The dynamic is terrible. One of the things Imagine LA is dedicated to is bringing people along. We say, “Imagine LA together.” You've seen that on our logo, we're about bringing every possible resource and every kind of relationship to the family and doing it together. Our training for our mentors and for anybody that comes into contact with our families is called ‘embodying equity’. It's about coming alongside and really trying to see the world from their lens and then going forward. 149 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION