What if serving others were something that didn’t drain us, but a process that both aided the holistic growth of the individual and also contributed to the development of an organization? That very ideal sits at the heart of most organizations in the nonprofit sector. Yet, sadly, we often fall short.
Homelessness is not a new phenomenon. Shelters, soup kitchens, and a wide variety of connected programs have been implemented in communities all across the globe with varying levels of success. These programs usually have a heavy focus on metrics, and while they have a goal of assisting an individual in the transition from homelessness to housed, they typically only achieve short-term relief.
In a town often thought of for its picturesque historical village, prestigious college, and role in the founding of our country, people rarely think of Williamsburg, Virginia, in terms of poverty and homelessness. Yet, according to the most recent census, 9.3% of families in the city of Williamsburg were under the poverty level, including almost 30% of those under 18. While few visitors would encounter the challenges present in the community, the reality of need can’t be denied.
Since the founding of 3e Restoration in March 2014, we have been able to embark on a journey. Our founder, Fred Liggin, joined with clinical psychologist Dr. James Goalder to create a unique curriculum that trains a community, typically a local church, to walk with Friends in Need. Not seeking simply to patch the holes and send our homeless friends on their way, we believe that homelessness and poverty affects the whole person through the the Five-Fold Reality of Poverty and Brokenness™:
- and spiritually
At 3e Restoration, we believe in what we do because we have seen it work, not only in the lives of our Friends in Need, but in our partnering organizations. We regularly hear from our partnering churches that the holistic and deeply relational approach of 3e has provided the local congregation with an opportunity to live their mission, without feeling like they are simply engaging in another program or offering some transactional ministry.
The core of the program revolves around our values:
- Gracious Hospitality
- Relentless Hope
- and Listening
This foundation allows us to encourage, equip, and empower faith communities to walk a journey with our Friends in Need, seeking to break the cycle of homelessness and extreme poverty through systemic change, one friend or family at a time.
3e brings together the best models from various disciplines to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Our model takes into account four areas of influence.
- Situated Learning Theory: Moving Beyond Information-Based Learning. We believe that learning must be more than the transmission of factual knowledge or information. Learning involves participation in practice communities that are situated within authentic activity, context and cultures. The 3e Restoration Process© is grounded in intentional relationships and learning environments where the information offered is demonstrated and practiced in real-life contexts and relationships. Our procedure is guided by the 3e Process House© and led by the Servant-Leader Coordinator (SLC) and includes a network of All-in Friends and 3e coaches. In a learning model, the Friend in Need is encouraged toward self-direction while considering the surrounding relationships, contexts and cultures. This helps the Friend discern how and why actions have consequences in their own life and in the lives of others. A healthy framework for interdependence is constructed and an unhealthy framework of co-dependence or isolationist-independence is deconstructed. This model of learning serves as the basis for goals and expectations in light of the Five-Fold Reality of Poverty and Brokenness.
- Social & Cultural Anthropology: Moving Beyond Crisis Management. Our approach specifically addresses the narratives and structures from which Friends derive their systems of meaning and behavior. Our training and curriculum is designed to uncover the personal narratives that possess power in a Friend’s life and how these narratives are formed by relationships, experiences, nature, culture and language. Our curriculum also equips the Friend to understand how systems of meaning are supported by and embedded in the values, institutions, rules/laws, and symbols that set the parameters by which life is envisioned in society, and ultimately determine what behaviors are acceptable. Addressing these areas empowers the Friend for systemic change by helping them recognize behavioral patterns and their origins.
- Memorable Coaching Tools: Moving Beyond Behavioral Modification. We believe that equipping a Friend in Need for holistic sufficiency means giving them the tools to build character and competency. These tools must be accessible regardless of educational level. They must be easy for the Friend to recall and employ in real-life scenarios, but must offer more than behavioral modification and empower the Friend toward systemic change. Therefore, these tools must work together to address the Five-Fold Reality of Poverty and Brokenness. We call these coaching tools Growth Symbols. Our curriculum offers nine Growth Symbols designed to improve decision-making skills, decrease impulsivity, strengthen personal identity, foster positive self-worth, identify false narratives, increase relational intelligence, encourage holistic self-examination, and bolster personal productivity.
- Hospitality as Leadership: Moving Beyond Hierarchical Benevolence and Transactional Engagement to Relational Engagement and Presence. Hospitality as leadership is an approach grounded in practices of listening, mutual learning and relational engagement. Hospitality, in ancient Near Eastern tradition, is understood as tending to a stranger, and has moral dimensions that cause a person to leverage their circumstances or resources for the good of another within the context of relational engagement. We train our SLCs to move beyond the notions of hierarchical benevolence led by transactions, and toward holistic sufficiency where relationship is always the chief concern. Hospitality as leadership battles the tendency to objectify a Friend in Need as someone needing to be fixed and leads the SLC to prioritize presence through listening practices (e.g., reflective listening). Listening creates the opportunity for mutual learning, whereby the SLC understands that people living through homelessness have something to offer. Mutual learning nurtures genuine concern and, over time, emphasizes a common humanity that develops a relationship that affirms, confronts and outlines mutually beneficial boundaries.
Through a strategic utilization of this approach within the confines of a community-building approach, 3e has been able to accomplish much in our first 20 months:
- 17 Friends/Families in Need have been permanently housed, with 16 actively participating in the 3e Restoration ministry.
- 12 Friends/Families have been stabilized through temporary housing with another six pending.
- 36 individuals from 14 faith communities have been trained as SLCs.
- 13 SLCs from six partnering churches are actively working with a Friend/Family.
- 2 organizations are receiving services from our Consulting Division.
We are also excited to be a recipient of the Governor’s Homeless Reduction Grant. The grant program through the Virginia Housing Trust Fund provides assistance to projects that address homelessness needs in the Commonwealth and support state housing policy. 3e Restoration was awarded the grant’s maximum amount, based on the Department of Housing and Community Development’s scoring process.
The bedrock of the organization, however, is found in the stories of those we have walked with that tell the true impact of 3e Restoration:
Frank was a field engineer for a Fortune 500 company until his mother became ill. Finding no other options, Frank had to quit his job to care for her. Then, a car accident left Frank injured, jobless, penniless, and homeless. Through his journey with 3e, Frank has found All-in Friends who have walked with him on his journey toward self-sufficiency and faith. Frank now lives in a house, has a good job, and is finishing his college degree.
Drake had just gotten out of jail, had recently lost his mother, and was kicked out of his winter shelter due to drug possession when he connected with 3e Restoration. One of our board members, Carl, had mentored Drake when he was a child. Carl and Holley, another former mentor, walked with Drake on the journey to restoration, working with him almost daily for several weeks. Drake now holds two jobs, is sober, and is preparing to go back to school.
Through our three divisions (Restoration, Consulting, and Housing), we are able to help the socially displaced, train social service agencies, and help find permanent housing for our Friends in Need. This work is done as we approach each person holistically, recognize their unique situation and offer them a unique plan, assist them in skill development and the making of healthy choices, surround them with a caring community, and assist the restoration of their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual health.
Our Drink Water and Give campaign suggests that people drink water when they go out to eat, using their monthly savings on beverages as a recurring donation to 3e Restoration.
Tammy Harden, whose passion is to walk alongside those in need, is the Executive Director of 3e Restoration. A long-time volunteer with many local agencies and nonprofits, she has focused in recent years on consulting and project management in the areas of affordable housing and housing for persons with disabilities. http://3erestoration.com
This article is reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 1, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today!
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