A monthly column by CEF’s very own:
I thought it might be a good time to speak on something that I really should know a little something about. That would be the Opportunity Class, for which it has been my supreme good fortune to be involved with right from its very inception. The goal for the class then as it is now is to give our members the information we think helpful in the transitioning out of poverty and homelessness.
Any successful endeavor requires a vision of how you wish for things to turn out. Mine was to use the principals set forth in the 12 step programs and adapt them in a way that might achieve our goal of transitioning our members from the fringes of society and back into the mainstream. In other words to help them to acquire the knowledge and the motivation to seek a more meaningful and abundant life. Financial independence, self-reliance and enhanced self esteem being chief among the many goals I had established for the group.
Having overcome poverty and homelessness in my own life I have always been keenly aware of the need to keep the topics and curriculum relevant to the members and where they are collectively in their personal lives. Though my results have all been positive I am mindful that others may require a different strategy for their own recovery. I would like to think that the results for the majority of our members have all been positive.
As in the 12 step model we place great emphasis on honesty and personal responsibility because I believe that only by confronting the mistakes of our past can we hope to take full advantage of the present. There is great power that is unleashed when a group of people get together to try to help one another. I have also come to believe that no one can help a homeless person as much as another homeless or formerly homeless individual. But having said that, the real secret to the success of the class lies in the many advocates that give of their time to support and encourage the members through what can be very discouraging and challenging times. To that end I am always trying combine what we do in the class with the efforts of the advocates.
I can report that we have gone from averaging about 5 members a class to now when the average is better than 15. I would like to presume that this growth is indicative of the fact that my vision was correct. I know that we have helped an awful lot of people but none more than me. If all our members get as much out of the class as I have then I guess that we soon will become famous. But before I prepare for my interview with 60 Minutes I will continue to be open minded about ways that we can improve the effectiveness of the curriculum and how I deliver the message of optimism and empowerment.
Lately I have placed a greater emphasis on discussion and hearing the members share their experience strength and hope for the future. I am confident that the class will continue to evolve and become even more relevant to the needs of our members. It has certainly been the greatest privilege ever bestowed upon me to take part in helping to develop this program.
As always I will continue to suggest to our members that they consider making changes as opposed to excuses. And although there is no way that we can hope to carry the message to all that need to hear it, it sure has been fun trying. We can’t hope to get to every member that attends but maybe we can plant a seed that will bare fruit later on down the road for them.