What is Homelessness?
Being without a safe, warm place to sleep, eat, and care for children; living without the security of familiar people and belongings—that is homelessness. The loss of one’s home, the most basic element of stability, is a profound crisis for anyone, but especially for families. Parents endure the heartache of being unable to provide a secure environment for their children. And children, who now make up 25 percent of our nation’s homeless population, are deprived of a fundamental requirement for healthy development---a safe, permanent home.
How Many People are Homeless?
Statistics vary depending on the source, but estimates are that 2 – 3 million people a year experience homelessness. The sad truth is that families with young children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population –they now account for 40 percent of all those who are homeless.
What Can We Do to Help?
People of faith want to respond to the needs of their homeless “neighbors,” but this can be an overwhelming task for one congregation. What do we do? How do we become part of the solution? Family Promise of Green County is part of a national program that responds to the growing need to provide shelter, meals and comprehensive support services to families without homes. The program unites the congregations from area churches to assist the homeless families.
Five Basic Elements of the Program
1. Host Congregations
Thirteen congregations host three to five families (up to 14 individuals) about four times a year – for one week at a time. Overnight lodging is provided from 5:00 pm to 7:00 am the next morning. Host congregations provide overnight lodging, breakfast, brown-bag lunch, dinner, and hospitality.
Volunteers are the heart of the Family Promise; without them, it cannot exist. Volunteers provide a variety of services: cooking and serving meals, playing with children, helping with homework, and staying overnight. Beyond providing lodging and meals, volunteers interact with the guests, treating them with respect and responding with compassion.
3. Social Service Agencies
We employ a Network Director to work with local social service agencies that refer families to Family Promise. The director and agencies help guests find housing, jobs, and other services. Since Family Promise is primarily comprised of volunteers, the social service agencies help assess potential guest families for active substance abuse, domestic violence or psychiatric problems.
4. Day Center
Guests use a local Day Center from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm to shower, care for pre-school children, and seek employment. Many guests are employed during the day and go to work. During the school year, children go to school. The Day Center provides guests with a mailing address and a home base from which to conduct their housing search. The Network Director has an office at the Day Center.
A network van transports guests to and from the Day Center. A network trailer carries bedding and luggage to the next host congregation.