Homeless Mentor

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As the temperatures fall, the population at homeless shelters grows, but a new mentoring program offered by Carpenter's Place and the American Red Cross aims at getting more people out of shelters and into jobs and apartments.

Kevin Neuber has been in and out of homeless shelters for years. He's spent the last month at the carpenter's place.

"A bunch of us were talking and saying without this facility we don't know what we'd do."

But Neubert hopes a new mentoring program offered by carpenters place and the Red Cross will get him back on track and off the streets.

“Get a job, get a place to live, and get out of here. I'll still come back here though and help out because of all they've done for me,” Neubert says.

Tom Gates is volunteering to serve as a mentor, to help Rockford’s homeless find jobs, housing and battle addictions. But simply being a friend comes first.

"I'm just going to try and be a good listener and encourage the people to keep moving,” Gates says.

Organizers of the program say mentors can make a big difference in the lives of these people.

The program was announced this week in recognition of Homeless Awareness Week, but organizers hope the benefits will last years. If you're interested in becoming a mentor call carpenter's place at 964-4105, or the Rock River chapter of the Red Cross at 963-8471. Mentors must give a three month commitment to spend one to four hours a week with their mentoree.

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Facts about Homelessness

  • On any given night, 750,000 Americans are homeless.

  • Over the course of a year, as many as two million people experience homelessness for some period of time.

  • These are the people who live on the street, in shelters, in cars, and in campgrounds.

  • Millions more live in precarious situations—over-crowded with family or friends, housed temporarily in institutions like prisons or mental hospitals, or paying too much of their income for rent.

  • The fastest growing group of homeless people consists of families with children.

  • Families make up about 36 percent of the people who become homeless.

  • The typical homeless family consists of a young unmarried mother with two or three small children.

  • Many of these young mothers are fleeing domestic violence, and most lack the work skills, access to child care, or access to jobs necessary to support their families.

Source: www.endhomelessness.org (National Alliance to End Homelessness Web site) contributed to this report.