Mission: The mission of M.E.R.C.Y. (Mentors, Empowerment and Resources for Change in Young families) Communities is to provide housing and supportive services to foster the independence of homeless and at-risk families.
Results: Over the past ten years we have served 138 families.
Four mothers have gone on to home ownership.
In 2009, 96 percent of transitional families moved into permanent housing upon completion of the program.
In 2009, 93 percent of permanent supportive families maintained their housing for one year or longer.
Target demographics: Homeless or at-risk parents with children between the ages of 0-18.
Direct beneficiaries per year: In 2009, we provided services to 30 mothers and their 52 children.
Geographic areas served: Sangamon County
Programs: The transitional housing program utilizes existing community services along with twenty-four hour onsite staffing, weekly case management, life skills training, job training, counseling, children's services and daily reinforcement by mentors and support staff. A family can participate in the transitional program for up to two years. An additional five years of aftercare program services are offered with the goal to sustain the gains made during the transitional phase. Currently, the transitional housing program can house ten families (up to 40 individuals). A new partnership program with a local church is providing support for an additional family. In 2005, services were expanded to include a permanent supportive housing program which offers decent, safe and affordable housing and a professional support system to help disabled families live healthy, interdependent lives, realizing their potential in homes of their own. Families can remain in this program as long as needed.
I recently joined the Clinical Advisory Board and attended my first meeting earlier this month. I was immediately impressed with the the way the director and the counselors and social workers there combined a deep sense of caring with a high degree of professionalism. The MERCY employees and director know the landscape of available services, know the population they serve and know how to collaborate with other professionals to bring about the best results possible. It was truly inspiring to take part in this results-oriented meeting.
I tell my friends that MERCY is the perfect charitable agency. It would be compassionate and useful enough if we just took in homeless women and their children, and gave them a place to stay. But that would just change their environment. We want to change their lives.
We provide a nice place to stay but, in return, we demand that our moms go through parenting classes and life skills classes and drug/alcohol/mental health counseling, GED classes, job training ... - whatever is necessary to turn their chaotic lives into structured, productive ones. We have been phenomenally successful in ending the cycle of homelessness and failure for our moms and, especially, for their kids.
We have a solid board and a great, caring staff. It is the most time-consuming, emotion-wringing work I've ever loved doing.