KenCrest’s Peer Mentor Network Supports Independent Living

Steve and Debbie playing mini golf together // Photo courtesy of KenCrest

The Peer Network NBI supports individuals in the Supported Independent Living program to grow in their communities, with confidence.

By Sydney Kerelo

For many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) joining KenCrest’s Supported Independent Living program, is their first time living independently without a family member or alternative residential supports. And that can be a daunting and scary experience for many. Programs like KenCrest’s Peer Mentor Network—a New Business Idea (NBI) funded through KenCrest to develop new models and products beneficial to those we support—emerged to help people with IDD transition to more independent settings in a way that feels more secure and less overwhelming.

While still relatively new, the Peer Mentor Network encourages new admissions into the Supported Independent Living (SIL) Program to connect with other more experienced SIL residents to help them adjust to living on their own, socialize, and decrease feelings of loneliness while transitioning into the program.

For many individuals starting out in Supported Independent Living, the experience can feel isolating without the continuous interactions they’re used to when living with family or in other 24/7 residential programs. It’s not easy for many to branch out of what’s comfortable and routine to make new friends and acquaintances.

“The Peer Mentor New Business Idea came about from a need we were seeing in the Supported Independent Living program where we saw a need to help people transition from settings where they never lived independently before or living independently without the appropriate support,” says Erika Frank, the new Assistant Director of Supported Independent Living.

“The program explores the possibility of utilizing the skills people have learned in the program to help others achieve success while sharing their experiences, teaching each other skills, and learning to problem solve together; they will also build relationships, which would decrease their dependency on staff,” Frank says.

Debbie and Steve posing for a photo booth photo // Photo courtesy of KenCrest

The program has made one mentor/mentee match thus far, but hopes to make more soon. The current duo started talking on the phone weekly before their connection quickly progressed to video calls and meeting halfway in the community for in-person activities. The mentee is now involved in group activities and is no longer afraid to go out and socialize. They feel more outgoing and confident thanks to their mentor’s advice and guidance.

To be a part of the Peer Mentor Network, both participants must be enrolled in the Supported Independent Living program and have 2-5 hours available weekly to interact with one another. Mentors― who are compensated for their time ―must be able to help guide others, record their time spent mentoring, and should be available to meet in person, over the phone, or on a video call. Any prospective mentors must also write a letter of intent about why they think they would be good mentors and showcase their strengths, and submit it to their SIL support team.

“It’s so important to make people new to our program have a sense of belonging, have a support system, and know that folks are cheering them on,” says Frank. “We want to show them that people support them and want to help further their independence in whatever outcome that looks like for them.”

In addition to one-on-one mentoring, the Peer Mentor Network program will sponsor community activities to help participants meet more people and encourage community engagement to make relationships beyond their KenCrest connections.

While the Peer Mentor Network is relatively new, there is hope it will continue to grow and encourage the people we support to broaden their horizons and get out into the community.

Learn more about KenCrest’s Supported Independent Living program and the Peer Mentor Network by clicking the links below.