Crosswinds Conversations | Curtis Smith Interviews Andrew Green Of Shepherd Community Center

This video segment is from Restoring Hope, a TV series hosted on WHMB40 and serving the Indianapolis area. Crosswinds Counseling offers counseling services throughout Indiana.

Curtis: Tonight we don’t want to simply thank our partners, we want to introduce you to one of them. Shepherd Community Center is making a real and significant difference in the lives of people all over our community. Tonight it is my honor to introduce you to the Assistant Executive Director Andrew Green for Shepherd Community Center. Andrew, thank you for being here tonight.

Andrew: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Curtis: Tell us a little bit about Shepherd Community Center and the amazing work that you guys are doing around Indianapolis.

Andrew: Sure. Shepherd is a ministry, a Christ-Centered ministry on the near east side of Indianapolis and we are celebrating actually 36 years of ministry in that neighborhood. And Shepherd is connecting with kids and families to help break the cycle of poverty, and we really do that through relationships. So any of our programs we often refer to as our “continuum of care” because we basically work with our kids from birth through college into a career and their families. But any of those programs are really just an opportunity to build a relationship, introduce people to Christ, and walk alongside them to help break that cycle.

Curtis: Tell me about the difference between treating poverty, in helping it in a temporary way, and breaking that cycle as you say, getting to what lies at the root of poverty to make sure that it’s not just putting a band-aid on it, but it is truly breaking a cycle. How do you guys do that versus just treating basically the symptoms?

Andrew: Yeah. What’s often key to that is that relationship, and so sometimes it means addressing a physical need on the front end, one of those symptoms – really what you defined as a symptom. It’s looking at the symptom and then building a relationship and going deeper and look deeper and discovering some of those root causes. And that happens even on an individual level but even from a neighborhood perspective. We have the opportunity to look at what are some of those roots, systemic issues that impact so many of our families and how can Shepherd be part of a solution to those, and how [we] can empower neighbors in that as opposed to just addressing and meeting a physical need. So we take a really holistic approach because we see poverty impact really every area of someone’s life. So any of our programs are going to look at physical needs, emotional needs, academic needs and then foundational for us is the spiritual need and we see poverty impact all of those areas, and so we try to address all of those areas [not just] from a programmatic aspect, but in that context of relationship.

Curtis: That sounds like incredibly difficult work because it feels like a lot of people do get stuck in that generation after generation. Breaking that cycle is so difficult. Why does this poverty take such a hold on generation after generation and keep people down in it and unable to break out of it?

Andrew: That’s a really great question and something that we continue to dive into to figure out how can we journey alongside families in that. I think that one of the biggest things we see is just what a child – since we have the opportunity to work with kids and families – we see it so often that a child is going to obviously learn what’s around them. Their environment is a part of that. Their family is a part of that. So when it’s learned and something that is passed on, that’s what ends up making it generational and so much more difficult. Obviously, there’s a lot of barriers already existing. Some of that is interpersonal barriers. Some of those are systemic barriers, but those barriers play a role in that. But it’s also what a child knows, what they learn. So, when you’re talking about building a relationship with somebody and presenting a new concept, a new way of thinking, a lot of times we talk about future thinking. What’s your future story? And that’s not a concept that a lot of kids learn in our neighborhood because everything is about survival in the moment, whether it’s about getting food or being safe. So if you’re talking survival, you’re not thinking about ‘what’s my future look like?’ You’re thinking, ‘What’s tonight look like? What’s tomorrow look like?’ But when we start saying, ‘What’s college look like? What’s a career look like?’ That’s sometimes a foreign subject.

Curtis: Feels a million miles away. A million years off. Right?

Andrew: Absolutely. And when you’re thinking of it from that versus survival you can understand why, and that’s ingrained in a lot of our neighbors is that immediate tyranny of the urgent. What’s right in front of them, and you can understand why it is that way and how difficult that can be to change and to break kind of a cycle.

Curtis: The need for mental health services has gone up across all populations. All demographics. I suspect that for low-income families it’s the exact same situation. Here this last year and a half, two years has been just a skyrocketing of the need for mental health services.

Andrew: Absolutely. You see again when we’re talking about kids and we’re talking about adults and families it’s the same thing that‘s happened in our community as we’ve seen in a lot of different places. There’s already a lot of different stressors. There’s already a lot of barriers that are there. There’s already a lot of stigma that is attached to mental health and receiving services. So you put all of those together, and then you add onto that a pandemic and the stress that comes with that. That added stress, and we see that need continue to skyrocket for that mental health component and meeting it, and making that accessible to our neighbors.

Curtis: I know you Shepherd, and Crosswinds, have a very like-minded faith-based foundation, besides that why is the partnership of Crosswinds Counseling so important to Shepherd Community Center?

Andrew: One of the main reasons is it’s about that expanded capacity. You know we’ve had a mental health counselor as a part of our team. We’ve seen that growing need. We see the need even more in the last 18 months, like you said, and we’ve wanted to look at how can we do that and expand capacity for our neighbors so we can get mental health counseling in front of more of our neighbors. So working together in a group that’s been doing it for a long time. Understanding the ins and outs of it and help us look at expertises in particular areas is really important for us. We know that a need for a kid is going to look different from a need for an adult and we would love to hone [in] on some of those specific areas. And we see that possibility for specific areas as well as expanded capacity and a partnership.

Curtis: Last thing Andrew. For someone who is watching tonight, maybe they’re middle class, upper-middle-class and they don’t run into a lot of low income, they don’t run into a lot of poverty in their day-to-day lives. They don’t see it for themselves a lot. What would you say to them in terms of how can they help? How can they get involved? What can they do to come alongside Shepherd and make a difference in our community?

Andrew: It’s about, we invite volunteers to join us in relationship again. So the opportunity to build relationships. So sometimes that’s meeting with a kid for tutoring, academic tutoring. In school and out of school time there’s some really neat opportunities there. There’s some other opportunities we have. Meeting a physical need like delivering groceries. So we have partnered with Gleaners in order to deliver food in our neighborhood so that we can build a relationship. Food can be an entry point to a deeper relationship to look at some of those other systemic needs that a family might have. Maybe it’s employment. Maybe it’s housing. A couple of those areas where the entry point of food allows us to have those conversations, and we invite volunteers to join us in that as well but it’s those opportunities through programs to build relationships and we’d love to [have] donors and volunteers come and join us in that, and build relationships with our neighbors

Curtis: Andrew thank you so much for your time, being here with us tonight. And thank you for the partnership helping to make Restoring Hope with Crosswinds Counseling. We could not be here without you and we greatly appreciate it.

Andrew: Thank you so much.

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