Personal Advisors (PAs) are critical to the success of SHIP. While congregations provide food, shelter, and certain other needs, personal advisors are the direct link to the guests in evaluating and stimulating their progress toward the goal of self- sufficiency. While each guest must steer his or her own course, the personal advisor helps the guest set the course within the SHIP structure and determines when the guest is on or off course.
A PA works with one guest at a time to establish a one-on-one relationship and walk a diplomatic tightrope. On one hand, a PA works to motivate and reinforce actions toward employment, permanent housing and self-sufficiency. On the other, a PA must be careful to guide guests and never do for them what they can and should do for themselves.
A PA helps a guest to set out a realistic budget, to maximize savings for their stay in the program, and to outline a post-program budget. A PA also monitors pay stubs, savings deposits, and other program requirements and has the authority to issue "strikes" if a guest fails to meet these or other program goals.
But a PA must also establish an open counselor relationship carefully listening to problems, frustrations, histories and dreams, all the while keeping the focus on the present and future to affect real, sustainable change in the guest’s life. PAs offer the guests a counselor and friend; yet PAs protect the goals of the program by holding guests accountable.
A PA commits to meet with his or her assigned guest at the host church on a weekly basis throughout the guest's stay in the program (up to four months). Typically, these meetings occur on Tuesday nights after dinner, but other arrangements can be made.
SHIP provides training for new PAs. Typically, experienced PAs and other SHIP volunteers who have experience working with the guests provide training. Training includes role-playing, discussions of typical and special situations, and an introduction to resources that are available to assist the guest. If possible, new PAs will be matched with an experienced PA for several weeks in order to observe actual roles.