Imagine L.A.

Sarah shared, “I was really struggling, bouncing around from place to place. I had no friends. I was hanging out with all the wrong people. Worst of all? I didn’t care about myself.” Many years ago, Sarah, age 7, was removed from her family and placed in the foster care system. Her relationship with her adoptive mother, as she put it, was “horrible.” At 18, her adoptive mother threw her out and she moved to Los Angeles.

With no resources or contacts, Sarah fell into depression.
“I wanted it all to end so badly,” she recalls. “I desperately wanted out of this life and hoped every day that God would grant my wish.” 


Oct18mentr1At an all-time low, she found herself alone and pregnant by a man who had promised love but disappeared quickly. A homeless services organization placed her in housing and told her about a program to mentor families making the transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. It was Imagine LA. a non-profit dedicated to ending the cycle of homelessness, poverty and neglect for families. 


Oct18mentr2Their program matches mentors with families who have experienced homelessness but are now in housing and have expressed a desire to work with Imagine LA. The mentors, all volunteers, walk alongside these vulnerable families, helping them get on a pathway out of poverty and develop habits and skills that allow them to thrive.


Oct18mentr3Each member of the family over age five gets a one-on-one mentor. The mentor team helps with things like teaching the family how to cook and plan meals, finding child care for the small children, helping parents locate jobs, encouraging wellness habits like exercising, or just giving advice. Mentors help the mentees learn to advocate for themselves and access free or low-cost community resources. Each mentor meets with his or her family member a minimum of twice per month. They might meet for coffee, a walk through the park, or a trip to the zoo.


Oct18mentr4Each family’s head of household also has a financial wellness mentor who helps that mom or dad learn to manage finances and develop a family budget. The finance mentors give tips on saving, and helps the family develop finance-related goals. Finance mentors meet with their family once a month at minimum.






Oct18mentr5Throughout the program, Imagine LA’s staff of professional, Masters level social workers trains and guides the mentors and families as they work together. They have workbooks and milestones they establish together and the Imagine LA staff is always available if anyone has a question or needs assistance. This is serious work but mentors and their families always save time to have fun together!  Part of the onboarding process during mentor matching is finding common interests the mentors share with their mentees. Despite very different backgrounds, Imagine LA teams always connect over a love of things like food, sports, arts, or various hobbies, and they find they have much more in common than they would ever have thought. 

Sarah’s Experience with Imagine LA

Oct18mentr7Through Imagine LA’s program, Sarah didn’t only get support. She got—in her words—“unconditional love.” Her team of volunteer mentors invited her into their community, taking her grocery shopping and teaching her how to plan a budget. “I had so many responsibilities I did not know what to do or how to navigate, and my team guided me through it all. My team helped me find and feel comfortable with putting my son in childcare, as well as helping me through the process of finding doctors and dentists.”


Today, Sarah has a fulfilling full-time job and has purchased her own car. Her son is a beautiful and energic boy who’s thriving in school and loves karate.

“My path was not easy,” said Sarah. “I went from wanting to end it all to being blessed with the smartest, most handsome little boy I've ever seen. I'm still discovering who I am and I’m so thankful that I have mentors who are willing to take this journey of discovery with me."

 
“I believe that Imagine LA was God's way of saying ‘You're okay now.’ For that, I am blessed beyond belief.”


Imagine Needs Mentors to Grow


Oct18mentr6Imagine LA started in 2006 as an initiative of Bel Air Presbyterian Church. Since then, they have partnered more than 100 families with 500+ volunteers and worked with hundreds more community organizations, faith groups and non-profits. Unique in Los Angeles and, in fact, the whole country, Imagine LA’s Family Empowerment & Mentorship model is successful. Of those who graduate from Imagine LA’s program, virtually all maintain permanent housing and meet the goals they’ve set out to reach. This year, a program graduate even purchased her own home – moving from homelessness to homeowner as a result of Imagine LA’s program.


Now, bolstered by funds from Measure H, Imagine LA is poised to grow exponentially throughout LA County. “Over the next year, Imagine LA is growing especially quickly in South LA and Mid-City,” said Jill Bauman, Imagine LA president and CEO. ‘We are looking for mentors to work with families living in those areas. No special skills are required! Our mentors are bound by a common desire to help others and help solve the homelessness crisis in our city. Please join us!”


Chris Ko, Director of Systems & Innovation at United Way’s Home for Good had this to say about Imagine LA: “When you see our homeless neighbors sleeping on the streets, know that most of them have been homeless before. Programs like Imagine LA that work to really end a person’s cycle of homelessness and poverty, aren’t just a solution, they’re also a prevention.” 


How to Become a Mentor

To become a volunteer mentor, the first step is to complete an application at http://www.imaginela.org/become-a-volunteer/


Once completed, Imagine LA reaches out to schedule a phone interview.   


Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any volunteer related questions.  She is happy to further discuss the process and time commitment.  Additional information is here:  http://www.imaginela.org/mentor-application/


If you cannot mentor, but have other time and talents you would like to share with Imagine LA and their formerly homeless families, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 323-944-0210. 

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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