For over 20 years, Marie Elana Roland has worked alongside people going through economic hardship and homelessness, and it has helped her identify a major gap in the system— a void that needs to be filled. She observed that people often think the solution to homelessness is simply “shelter.” While it’s a vital component, what Marie Elana has found to be just as important is a new path and companionship: someone to walk alongside them, as they look to and move toward their future. She makes sure the people she works with know, “they are not alone anymore.”
Marie Elana founded The Navigation Center (TNC), to help connect the dots. She and her team connect those experiencing homelessness in Charleston with community organizations and services, specific to their individual needs and situation. They act as a team of coaches and cheerleaders helping people navigate a new path forward. For instance, someone who has been trafficked may first need shelter and their basic needs covered, then services specific to trafficking survivors, as well as legal advice to help fight for justice and to prevent such horrors from happening to others.
Over the past year, TNC has seen over 1,400 people come through their doors looking for hope and connection. While TNC serves many veterans and those struggling with addictions, suicidal thoughts, or mental illness, the largest percentage of their clients are women and children.
Marie Elana recalls walking alongside a single mother and her toddler for the past two years, through many highs and lows. TNC helped her find a place to live and a job with childcare nearby, and transportation. The team walked with her as she faced one hardship after another, dealing with sickness and loss, which led to needing to find a new home and stable employment again. They walked with her as she fought and persevered for the independent life she wanted for her and her child.
“It's not easy or light work,” Marie Elana admits, but she is persistent and passionate. What keeps her going are the people—walking with them from beginning to end. She has seen men, women and children find security and a better way. She has seen people find faith and hope, and “this makes all the difference. Without faith, you will never be at peace.”
Marie Elana and her team at The Navigation Center are the hands and feet of Jesus to the world around them. By their actions, they show those they serve that they are not alone and there is a way through their difficulties.
Someone to walk with us.
Someone to fight for us.
Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? He saw our deepest needs and came near. He sees us still and comes near, walks with us, assuring us we are not alone.
Do you have a passion to help those battling mental illness?
Do you have a heart and appreciation for veterans in our community?
Are you a parent who knows what it’s like to need guidance in raising your children?
Do you have a financial blessing to share, to cover expenses for gaps services, such as transportation to a job interview, the purchase of a mattress for newly secured housing, assistance for a first-month’s rent?
There are many ways to offer support in the areas of job readiness, housing, education, financial management, life-skills training, health care, and mental health services.
For more information and opportunities, visit thenavigationcenter.org