Family Promise fights homelessness in Monroe County
Homelessness and hunger are an unfortunate reality for many families in Monroe County. Family Promise of Monroe County is a new organization with a mission to help homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response.
Family Promise is a nationwide organization that was established 30 years ago. There are now over 200 affiliates spanning 43 states helping struggling families nationwide.
Since opening in January, the Monroe County branch has already had the opportunity to serve two families who found themselves in a homeless situation due to a variety of circumstances. By having the time and help to seek out resources as well as solutions while having the basic needs of shelter and meals met, both families have secured housing and steady employment.
The father of the first family through Monroe County’s program stated, “We had a really good experience. The people were welcoming and made us feel like family. Me and my kids will always have everyone involved in our heart and enjoy the fond memories we made during the short time that we were there. If it wasn’t for the program, who knows where we would be now. We thank God every time for the opportunity it gave us to better ourselves and we are forever grateful for our new family in Monroe County.”
In Monroe County, local congregations and host sites, with the help of volunteers, provide space for temporary accommodations along with meals for homeless families in the evenings and overnight. During the day, the Sparrow’s Nest at the Abbey serves as a day center and provides space for case management services including education and connection to resources as well as shower, laundry and computer facilities; transportation is also provided for families.
“We’re finding it is hard getting started because there’s a lack of trust issue. Most people in this situation have tried to get through all of the systems and different organizations and it’s really hard. They just run into all kinds of red tape and hindrances and then they kind of give up,” said Krishna Battista, president of Family Promise. “They hear of a new program and because we’re just starting they don’t have other people to say, ‘you’ve got to do this it will change your life forever’ and that will happen in the future, but getting these first families to come in and trust the system is tricky.”
Battista reiterates that Family Promise is not just another homeless shelter. Families coming into the program will receive intensive and individualized case management to help them work on forming and implementing a plan to find and sustain a stable housing situation.
“As long as a family is actively taking steps toward improving their housing situation, they can remain in the program until achieving sustainable housing,” Battista said, adding that on average, nationwide, families are able to gain sustainable housing and maintain it within 63 days, which varies depending on each family’s situation.
Family Promise can only serve three to five families, depending on the number of family members, at a time in order to provide adequate overnight accommodations.
According to Battista, a community collaboration focus is key to the success of Family Promise. In order to be able to serve its families better, Family Promise is still in need of help from the community.
Staff are looking for landlords who are willing to connect with the organization to provide advice and/or rental opportunities to families once they have completed the plan through Family Promise to help ensure that they have the capability to sustain their new housing situation.
In addition, the organization also needs transitional housing whether through a partnership with owners or through donated real estate.
“At some point we have to find a way to provide transitional housing because there is such a long wait for low-income housing that the time in this program is going to be way longer if we have to wait for things like that,” Battista said. “If we could coordinate with people and be able to offer a transitional housing option until they get to the point that they can pay the full amount. We can’t serve as many people if we have to keep families in the program an extended amount of time.”
Family Promise is also seeking employers who are willing to work with the organization toward training and hiring family members with the abilities to fulfill the duties required for open positions. Staff at Family Promise are also looking for volunteers who have experience with resume building, interviewing and budgeting/financial planning.
The organization needs counselors that would be willing to volunteer time to assist parents in overcoming psychological and emotional obstacles that may be a factor in their homeless situation.
With the help of large donations from community members, Family Promise was recently able to purchase a 15-passenger van. Now, they are in need of an enclosed trailer to transfer beds and supplies between host locations each week.
“We recognize that some of these are big asks, but we also realize that needs can’t be filled if people are not aware of them,” Battista said. “Family Promise National is founded on the knowledge that most people have the desire to make a difference, they just don’t always know what they can do.”
Family Promise is gathering community members who believe that no child deserves to be without a stable home to join Club 180 by contributing $180 each year or $15 each month to the organization. Donations can be made directly through Family Promise’s website, https://familypromiseofmonroecounty.com or by mailing a contribution to 17304 Havenwood Rd, Sparta WI 54656.