How to Become an Advocate

by Jess Luoma

In the sunny small town of Redding, California, hidden under creek bridges and oaky hillsides are nearly 1,000 homeless citizens camping within self-governed encampments or camping alone and in their cars. Considering the percentage growth in the last few years, this is a shocking number. In 2018 the number of unsheltered individuals was counted at 431 in all of Shasta County. The rise has cast Redding into an official city emergency crisis for unsheltered people. The leading root cause of homelessness is a catastrophic loss of family and support.

Luckily, the response from the City of Redding has been promising. There is a common consensus: we must act now. In this call to action, we have made great strides. As a non-profit, we have formed empowering relationships with not only dozens of homeless individuals, but also with key players in the city and key advocates adding to our team, pushing us onward with great hope. We have worked tirelessly to change existing paradigms around homelessness and to introduce the successful model of Microshelter Communities (MSCs). Read more on that here.

Now, the missing link has become abundantly clear: we need to raise up more volunteers, or what we dub "advocates." We need dedicated people to walk alongside & strengthen friends like Daisy* who entered into recovery but landed back in an encampment because there was no one there to see her through. We need friends to walk alongside people like Tyler* who is pursuing education and purpose for his life.

Shasta Thrive seeks to equip and mobilize mature believers who Thrive will walk alongside a homeless or at-risk person. As advocates, they will befriend, mentor, coach and connect them to resources. Our focus is the homeless, but once housed, advocates continue to encourage and support individuals to stay connected to a local church and healthy community. They will spend time with them regularly, disciplining or connecting them to Christ-centered Bible studies. Together, we form the Advocates for Stability Network. The ASN gathers regularly for communication, encouragement and training.

When you read the words above does your heart burn within you? Does it pound? Or maybe you feel a quiet tug at your gut. Maybe your mind is already forming a list of questions and is telling you to find out more.

To the fiery ones and the speculative alike, you are welcome here. If you fall anywhere on this spectrum, read on.

We would love to have you join us at one of our informative and inspiring interest meetings led by our director & team of lead advocates (pictured above). This is where you will find answers to your valuable questions and further understand the nature of our work with our homeless friends. We will unpack questions around commitment, advocacy & support you will receive as a future volunteer. We will discuss the problems we plan to solve and the ways we go about them as a team. Prepare to learn and be empowered. Sign up for the next interest meeting here.

Should you find yourself desiring to play your specific role with us, you will be invited to fill out a volunteer application & background check. We find this step to be crucial for the safety of you, our homeless friends and our team. We understand that in that becoming an advocate, it is a two-way learning and growth opportunity and that in serving you will be deeply challenged and transformed. We are here to support that process as a community marked by love.

Should this be a right fit in this season, you will then get the opportunity to further your understanding and compassion of the homeless community in Redding by attending community dinners at local encampments and attending training sessions led by some incredible speakers and educators in our community.

As you hear the stories of our friends currently homeless or in recovery, you'll be invited to walk alongside one or two, helping them to move the needle in their lives, mentor them and enjoy life together.

In the process of walking alongside my friends out of homeless addicted lifestyle and into one of wholeness and recovery, I have dug deeper into my own story and healing journey-- a beautiful and unexpected exchange.

In order to transform this city and the current homeless crisis, we need to break out of the individualistic norm and find that the old omen is true, "it is far better to give, than to receive." In the giving of our time, our talents, our friendship we find ourselves in the middle of our purpose, which I will opine is the greatest treasure to be discovered in life.

Sign up for an interest meeting here.

*Names changed for privacy

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