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Where did the name “Mustard Seed Project” originate?

“Although it is the smallest of all seeds, it grows to be the largest of all garden plants.” (Matthew 13:32) Mustard Seed Project is not a religious organization, but this virtue embodies everything that we are: a small group of students seeking to make a large impact. 

What services does MSP offer?

MSP offers community services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. We train qualified volunteers to provide personalized, trauma-informed services for individuals experiencing homelessness. We have a maximum 5:1 client to service navigator ratio to ensure personalized and effective community-based support. Prospective clients need only a form of communication to be eligible for services.

These services are:

  1. Resume Building: One-on-one personalized assistance to create a professional resume

  2. Community Support: work with a service navigator to develop person-centered action plans and schedule weekly over the phone check-ins.

  3. Referrals: work with a service navigator to find community-based resources such as financial, legal, and healthcare services.

  4. Government & Community Application Aid: we can help low-income and unsheltered individuals who need special assistance with applications such as Medi-Cal, General relief, CalFresh, and housing waitlists.

  5. Community Relief Fund: For qualifying individuals, we can provide short-term funds for clothing, medication, and basic needs.

How did MSP adjust operations during the COVID-19 pandemic?

After receiving notice of the first case of COVID-19 in San Diego, MSP made the heavy decision to suspend all forms of homeless outreach, as of March 5th, 2020, until further notice. This includes street and shelter outreaches. However, case management services such as the Volunteer Service Navigation Program are still on-going, albeit remotely through phone and Zoom. This decision was made in the best interest of all of our volunteers who have been so passionate and dedicated to our cause serving our neighbors on the streets.

We understood that during the pandemic, those experiencing homelessness still needed the same support, if not more. Because of this, we developed a research project where we mobilized our volunteers to create resource guides for Riverside and San Diego case managers on the ground during COVID.

We now carry all operations remotely, ensuring the safety of our members and clients, developing a Community Advocacy structure. Chapters focus on fundraising for our Community Relief fund that goes directly to the community via various stipends. (see question above)

We also continued operations by advocating for social spaces such as fundraising to support homeless shelters at the beginning of the lockdown, holding free/open online seminars about various homeless topics, and most recently petitioning for Operation Shelter to Home at the San Diego Convention Center to remain open until San Diego is in tier 4 (lowest) for COVID-19.

 
 
 
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How did MSP carry out outreach prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?

We partner with different homeless organizations and offer our services to their programs to establish a presence of constancy and trust in the community as well as streamline any individuals who may need help to our Volunteer Service Navigation program. An example of this is the Path of Life Shelter in Riverside, where our volunteers participate in a soup kitchen program called GUMBO.

In addition to working with different organizations, we go out in teams weekly to perform street outreach. On these outreaches, we pass out whatever donations we manage to receive from the community as well as buy ourselves - food, water, clothes, blankets - as well as simply just be an ear for individuals to tell their stories. Just as above, we also try to streamline potential clients to our Volunteer Service Navigation.

What does my donation to MSP get used for?

We are fighting homelessness by providing service navigation, one client at a time. However, sometimes, volunteering and passion alone aren't enough to make a big enough change. As volunteers, we rely solely on the generosity of others to make our goals possible. All of the money we receive goes directly into our services: outreach, community advocacy, and homelessness education.

As a volunteer-run nonprofit, we try our best to utilize as many free tools as possible in our mission to provide homeless case management services. Besides overhead costs, most of our expenditures are to the Community Relief Fund.

What is the Community Relief Fund?

Community Relief Fund: The CRF is a way for us to provide clients that are facing homelessness or are at-risk of homelessness a hand up so that they can achieve their goals. (ie. work boots for a job, rental assistance to avoid an eviction, first month's deposit to get a fresh start on financing, etc.)

How can I connect an individual experiencing homelessness with an MSP service navigator?

MSP Hotline: (619) 494-2226

Leave a voicemail with your name, best form of contact, your situation, and the services you are seeking.

How do I bring MSP to my school?

Contact Geetha, our Director of Recruitment, at geethag@mustardproject.org. Send your resume and position of interest! She will work with you to recruit other like-minded students to establish a chapter.

How does your organization’s model differ from other homeless outreach models?

Following our “Hand up, not Hand-out” philosophy, we believe that in order to make a positive impact in the realm of chronic homelessness, we must do more than simple simple band-aid work. That’s why the main reason for our street outreach program is not to pass out basic necessities, but to create a presence of trust in which we can direct individuals to our Volunteer Service Navigation program. The main goal is to help individuals rise above their situation through rapport and service, with work put in by both the client and service navigator.

 
 
 
 
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Why college students?

Technically speaking, we recruit college students because we believe chronic homelessness cannot be solved with a band-aid, and - in addition to case management - must first start with the future leaders of our community. College students have both the passion and freedom to provide just the services crucial to helping individuals in homelessness rise above their situation.

Simply speaking, we recruit college students because we started out as college students. Our founder and Project Developer, Martin Arceo didn’t know what he was doing in 2017 when he set up a table in front of UC Riverside library, speaking to anyone who would give him an ear about homelessness. Nor did he know what he was doing when he received a $500 donation to make care packages and recruited the first outreach team to pass them out. But here we are, 6 chapters and more than 150 volunteers later, offering our services to any individual who needs us.

I’m an Alumni of MSP and took a break after college, how can I get involved again?

Although we mainly work through colleges, anyone can join so long as they go through all the training required to be one of our volunteers. To do this, just contact the nearest established chapter in which we have a presence and inquire about the next recruitment date. Our chapters can be found in this link: https://www.mustardproject.org/volunteer

I’m not in college, but I am interested in joining MSP, how can I get involved?

Please refer to the above question. We require all of our volunteers to be 18 or above.

Does MSP follow up with clients who receive donation funds from the community relief fund?

In order to receive funds, the individual must be a client of MSP first. The donation money is allocated to our clients who have submitted an application request to our Community Relief Fund program. In this process their volunteer service navigator (VSN) will provide supporting reasoning and follow-ups to ensure that the funding is assisting the necessary cause, as well as crucial in helping the client move towards the next step. Upon approval, our funding is directly sent to the client’s shelter facility, transportation service, or other needs, and is confirmed by the VSN to ensure that it was spent for the necessary cause. For larger transactions such as paying rent or paying for a motel, we coordinate a 3rd party payment directly to property managers.

Does MSP help those experiencing homelessness find employment or additional sources of income?

Yes we do help with employment! Our service navigators can help our clients with resume building and developing action plans that include finding employment and other sources of income.