Faith in Action San Gorgonio Pass celebrated the opening of its first community assistance navigation center in Banning on Tuesday, May 17.
Faith in Action (FIA), established in 2007, is a nonprofit aimed at assisting the low-income and homeless populations, and to better meet those needs FIA opened its new office at the northeast corner of S. San Gorgonio Avenue and E. Livingston Street, within sight of a homeless encampment.
“We have engaged in small projects to assist the homeless but never something as ambitious as a navigation office,” said Carol Allbough, FIA president and manager of the navigation office.
The office offers those in need assistance in navigating and completing the various processes required for obtaining services from a wide variety of service organizations and government agencies. According to Allbough, the office is the first with this focus in the Banning area.
The office has five part-time navigators who help people find out what services and assistance is available to them and help them file applications and other necessary documents. The primary need and ultimate goal for most clients is assistance in finding housing, Allbough said.
“We help people learn how to approach these entities and communicate what they need,” said Allbough. “A lot of folks just need assistance with that first step, finding the resources and seeing what they qualify for.”
While their focus is on helping the homeless transition to more stable living, the office is neither a food bank nor a clothing closet. The plan is to grow the Banning navigation office into a navigation center to serve the Banning-Beaumont area.
The need is so great that, at opening, the FIA Navigation Office was already working at capacity, said Allbough. Currently, the small but dedicated staff of five is assisting about 75 clients navigate a variety of processes. These processes include, finding work, obtaining IDs, assistance with healthcare forms, collecting food stamps and more.
“FIA is not going to solve this problem, but for those who want help and are willing to become self sufficient we are here to assist them,” Allbough said.
Victor Godinez, a disabled homeless man, attended the ribbon cutting to express his gratitude to FIA for assisting him sign up for food stamps and medication, complete his taxes and arrange transportation for various appointments.
“I’m grateful because they understand what I go through when trying to communicate with them [the agencies] and because I’ve lost patience with the processes,” Godinez said. “It’s big. If they didn’t help me I don’t know what I’d do. My paperwork would be backed up, the computer stuff I don’t understand. I’m happy I have them [FIA] to rely on.”
“This is great because the county can only do so much and it’s really the huge hearts of these volunteers who take it upon themselves to get in the streets and help people navigate through all the services they have available,” said County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt. “This is not a situation that’s going to get better on its own.”
Funding for FIA is primarily through grants, donations and other fundraising efforts. Donors can participate in FIA’s monthly donor project or shop at FIA’s online Esty shop.
For more information on Faith In Action San Gorgonio Pass, call (951) 293-9603. The FIA Navigation Office, 66, S. San Gorgonio Ave., is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, by appointment. All the FIA services are free.