Casa de Belen has received a $75,000 grant to fund a program in which adults will mentor teenagers living at the Roseburg homeless shelter.
Casa hopes to match up each of the some 50 teens at the shelter with a mentor, Casa’s executive director, Penny McCue, said.
Mentors will meet with teens and help them develop skills, she said. The youth will learn to communicate and build connections in the community, she said.
Homeless youth are “just looking to know someone outside in the community cares,” she said. “They could use that more than anything.”
The grant from the Oregon Department of Human Services will allow the shelter to hire a program coordinator, Kara Conway.
Conway will recruit and match mentors with teens.
The program will need compassionate volunteers whose only agenda is to help teens, she said. “Really just someone who is going to be there and who cares, someone who is committed,” Conway said.
“It would be helping the community give our teens a chance to better their lives and engage people in our community,” she said.
Time commitments will vary. Some mentors will talk with teens at least once a month, while others will meet with teens at least once a week. Mentors will teach teens skills to make them more self-sufficient. For example, a mentor could show a teen how to change a car’s oil to save money, McCue said.
Mentors also could help the teens prepare for job interviews, she said.
Roseburg resident Dawn Garcia, 48, signed up to be a mentor because she thinks it will be a good experience for both her and the Casa resident.
“I thought what a great opportunity to get involved with something that I can see the direct results right here in our community,” she said.
Each student has different needs, and she said she can lend a listening ear.
Roseburg resident Donna Hendrickson, 49, also signed up to be a mentor to be a positive role model for a teenager.
“The mentorship program builds the self-esteem of a child and helps the person be a contributing member of society for the future,” she said.
Hendrickson said she has met a resident who she hopes to mentor. Hendrickson would like to get the teen involved in hiking and nurture the teen’s musical interest.
“These kids come from broken homes, and they don’t realize they have as much of a chance as anybody else,” she said.
Casa has received grants before, but this is the biggest in several years, McCue said.
The grant is for the mentor program and can’t be used for other Casa expenses, she said. The grant will pay mentor training, Conway’s salary, mileage reimbursement and expenses for activities mentors and teens do together.
McCue said she hopes the grant will not discourage donors from continuing to support the nonprofit shelter.
Casa was one of eight organizations statewide that was awarded a state grant to help runaway homeless youth.
Casa could apply to renew the grant next year.
The mentorship program builds the self-esteem of a child and helps the person be a contributing member of society for the future.