Life Skills Empowerment Program (LSEP)

In 1989, the Interfaith Assembly, in partnership with New York Catholic Charities developed the 12-week, 24-session Education Outreach Program (EOP) to assist homeless adults to recover from the trauma associated with their homelessness and be re-integrated into their community. Participants are drawn from city shelters, drop-in centers, therapeutic communities and transitional housing programs. These classes are now offered twice a year to classes of up to 15 individuals through New York Catholic Charities and St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church. As part of the EOP format, each participant works with a mentor who assists him/her in the development of personal goals.

The Assembly has assisted a number of community-based organizations to replicate this model with great success, and is now, thanks to a generous in memory of Andrew Stallman has embarked on an effort to assist many more community partners to help establish additional sites of the Life Skills Empowerment Program based on then Education Outreach Program format.The first of these new programs, Breakthrough, was established in 2008 in partnership with Mercy Haven, Inc., based in Sayville, NY. In Partnership with Congregation Ansche Chesed, "Panim El Panim" was established on Manhattan's Upper West Side, in Bronxville, in partnership with the Reformed Church, "Coming Home" was established to assist men and women returning home from incarceration, in the spring of 2011, "Coming Home Brooklyn" was established in partnership with the office of Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes to help those coming out of prison with a history of substance abuse, and in the spring of 2011, "Living Well" was established to assist women who had become homeless as a result of domestic abuse.

Central to the process of healing from the trauma associated with their homelessness is being able to gain an insight about what has happened and how it felt. Life Skills participants learn to make sense of their experience of homelessness in the context of their life's journey. In sharing with a group with similar experiences, they receive valuable support and affirmation of their inherent value as members of the human family. Graduates are invited to join the Speakers Bureau and share their stories of recovery with the general public to help others to gain an understanding of personal dimensions of homelessness.

Participants are helped to understand the process of identifying and achieving goals in the various areas of their lives and are then matched with a volunteer mentor from the community who assists them in this process. Mentors make a commitment to meet with the participants six times over the 12-week period. Many mentors maintain contact with the participants for years after he or she graduated from the program. A large percentage of mentors have generously continued to volunteer to serve in this capacity for five years and longer. After graduation, a number of program graduates have themselves become mentors for other.


  • Life Skills Sessions with Guest Speakers: Speakers offer presentations on important topics including Self-image, Goal Setting, Healthy Relationships etc.
  • Goal Setting with Mentors: Each participant works one-on-one with a volunteer mentor to set and achieve short- and long-term goals.
  • Personal Stories: Participants are guided in sharing their life experiences. Toward the end of the program they are asked to share their stories at a public speaking event.
  • Special Sessions: An Orientation where participants are introduced to the program, given useful information, and fill out an expectations agreement. A Speaker’s Night when participants share their stories of recovery and healing with the public, Looking to the Future, when participants discuss how to apply what they’ve learned and grow from this experience. There is also an evening in which program participants join the Interfaith Assembly for its annual Interfaith Convocation for Housing Justice near City Hall and the Graduation when participants, mentors, instructors, friends and family celebrate the successful completion of the program.


Each session begins with a shared meal and shared reflection on a passage from scripture or inspirational reading. A small stipend is given for each session attended. At the conclusion of the program, graduates are encouraged to participate in twice-monthly support group sessions and other activities with the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing and Catholic Charities.


  • Are recently or presently homeless
  • Must be clean from drug or alcohol abuse for at least 3 months
  • Are committed to staying clean, and if applicable attending day programs, or AA, NA, etc.
  • Are interested in learning and sharing about themselves
  • Are interested in connecting with a supportive group in a positive surrounding