Rather than just housing and feeding the homeless, they are leading with their hearts to really try and help their clients address the root causes of their homelessness to begin with.
And for most of the residents in their short-term and long-term housing programs, that means addressing treatable mental health issues that keep them from being able to hold jobs, build relationships and be productive members of the York community.
“We’re trying to be more intentional about seeing our residents as individuals,” says Steve Brubaker, Chief Program Officer for LifePath. “We’re trying to get to the root of what gets them through our doors in the first place.”
Steve says that when it comes to serving the homeless population, there are many aspects of people’s lives that have to be addressed in order to really help the person begin to function more positively.
“Our initial goal is to just to stabilize them,” he said.
The ultimate goal, though, is to help their clients manage the root causes of their homelessness so they get and hold jobs to earn an income and restore their relationships with family members, so they can move on with their lives.
Bringing wholeness to people
To make a bigger impact on the mental health aspect of homelessness, LifePath has partnered with the Rev. David Vatral of Life and Light Counseling in southern York County.
David meets with LifePath clients who face a mental health diagnosis such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
“My desire is to bring wholeness to people in their lives, and there are multiple aspects to wholeness – of course there’s the spiritual and the emotional, but there is also the mental aspect of people,” he says.
David doesn’t work with LifePath clients with severe mental health illnesses that need a more intense program. Rather, he’s working with people whose anxiety, depression or PTSD has “skewed or warped their life lessons.”
“In many cases, those life lessons that they’ve learned and been following in their lives aren’t correct,” he says. “So, we dig into where the life lesson did happen.”
David says he helps clients go back into their childhood to deal with past hurts such as abuse and trauma and to really dig into their cognitive thought process. By doing this, he can help to lift them up and out of their negative patterns that led to their homelessness.
Those patterns might include a life of crime, drug and alcohol addiction and withdrawing from their family and friends.
Building a safe environment
Listening to these stories – most of whom are men – to show them that they matter and are important is a radically new approach to addressing homelessness, Steve says.
“We’re a typical Rescue Mission that is now trying to change the culture. This is a paradigm shift, really,” he said.
“We’re trying to build a safe environment to get this stuff out,” he says, adding that he’s looking for staff members to be the kind of people not afraid to admit their own failings in life.
“It was never safe to share your stuff before,” Steve says. “Now, we’re looking for people to hire who have enough self-awareness to share their own stories and how they’ve gotten out of that negative stuff.”
The successes and wins at LifePath under this new paradigm shift are small and few and far between; yet, as the partnership with Life and Light Counseling only began in March, even those small wins are starting to really stand out, Steve says.
For David, those small wins are seeing their clients start to really make a connection between their current behaviors and their past traumas and abuse.
“Their eyes will light up and say, “That is why I do that!” he says.