AwareNow: Issue 28: The Mental Edition

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“With family homelessness, over 90% of it is either driven by economics or domestic violence.” JILL: (continued) I’ve had a lot of friends or just people that have come through Imagine LA and be mentors. One of my favorite things about what happens is this… inevitably there is a point in this relationship where the mentor's mindset goes from “I'm the hero” to “This mom is the hero… The fact that she has kept her family together and navigated all this and is ready, willing, engaged and moving forward is mind boggling to me. I don't know that I could have done it.” That's the moment I call ‘The Hero Switch’. It’s the switch over. The moment that happens, we’re all really together. It's a really wonderful moment. It's a great moment. So, Imagine LA, as I said, we are all about trying to bring all of whatever we can to the family, to melt that iceberg, to literally embrace it and melt it together.

We started with trying to do the mentorship and case management. The mentorship has gotten much more sophisticated. Our case management has gotten much more sophisticated as well. Ultimately, we've got funding for it, to do it the way we want to do it from the Department of Housing for Health. They're incredibly openminded and innovative. They love our outcomes so they let us do what we do, which is great. It’s allowed us to grow from three families to over 200. We’ll do almost 300 this year.

We came alongside the family. We were helping them root in their new neighborhoods — whether it's school, whether it's healthcare, whether it's the grocery store, whether it’s transportation because a lot don't have cars, some do… whatever it was. We help them root in their new neighborhoods and get jobs in terms of the parents and the childcare and all that's needed. But then we observed that they really weren't, with few exceptions, getting out of poverty. And so we decided to lean into this. It's really hard if it's a single mom; it's really hard. Do the math.

You work 40 hour a week at minimum wage. Ccan you pay the rent on that? Can you do the groceries with that? I don't think so. When we're talking about $600 a week, maybe not when rent is $1,800 or maybe $2,400. Your take for the entire month is $2,400, and that's before taxes. It's really hard to look at how can you get financially independent, which is ultimately what getting out poverty means. So, we decided to lean in and lean in a big way into four things because our goal is to create economic mobility for our families, to again give them choices where if they decided to lean in, they were going to watch their financial independence grow, and their confidence and their kids' confidence.

So, we leaned into finding living wage job pathways that were viable for them, that could be taught or apprenticed in 3 to 12 months. They needed to, because we have a two year program and we wanted to make sure they had all the supports during that time. Then we were also looking at childcare. What is going on with the system? How can we navigate it? How can we make sure we can get them viable, safe economic childcare? And we've cracked that code and really have figured out how to navigate to help them get what they need. The third bucket is how do they gain financial fitness? How do they build financial fitness? Whether it's workshops, one-on-one coaching, or a savings matching fund, what is it?

We've pulled that all together, and we have a savings matching fund, we also have a family investment, an emergency fund, so the families can get through the bumps or take advantage of opportunities where they have to put up a little money for a uniform or books. The last piece was navigating the social benefit system. For many, they finally get some benefits and they earn a little bit more money and then some benefits get taken away. Does that mean they 150 AWARENOW / THE MENTAL EDITION