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Local News

The Family Promise Network, a program that brings shelter, meals, and support services to homeless families, will celebrate a Grand Opening, complete with ribbon cutting, Monday, April 8 at 4 p.m. signaling its readiness to begin serving area families in Hastings.

 

The ceremony will be at Hope United Methodist Church at the intersection of M-37 and M-79 south of the city. “It’s been a long haul,” said Executive Director Martha Gibbons. “We’re very excited to start taking families.”

 

The hosting of homeless families rotates weekly among 11 Host Congregation area churches, with the possibility of 12 in the Network, where families are provided lodging, three meals a day and caring hospitality three or four times a year, she said.

 

Volunteers are essential to success and provide a wide range of services like cooking and serving meals, playing with children or helping them with homework, interacting with guests with respect and compassion and providing overnight security.  “The churches supply dozens of volunteers working behind the scenes,” Gibbons said.

 

Churches that may not have the space needed to be a Host Church, but can provide much needed volunteers, supplies and finances as Support congregations. Families in the program will be able to use a Day Center in the second floor of Hope Methodist Church from about 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, where the director, in this case Gibbons, provides case management services. Guests look for employment, tend pre-school children, shower and do laundry.

 

The Center gives guests a mailing address and a base for housing and employment searches. Many guests are employed during the day, while older children attend school, usually the school they last attended or the school closest to the Day Center.

 

The Family Promise Network has a van, donated by Broadmoor Motors in Caledonia, to transport guests to and from the Day Center. It may be used to collect donations and carry bedding and personal belongings to the next host congregation.

 

Facilities at the Day Center include a lounge area for families, a play area for children, a small room or cubicle for the director who will provide most of the supervision of the day center and showers and, if possible, a washer and dryer.

 

Host facilities include a lounge area with sofa, chairs, tables and TV, a dining area, a kitchen, bathrooms, and sleeping accommodations. Ideally, congregations provide a separate room, such as a classroom, for each family. If that isn’t possible, a fellowship hall or other large space will do.

Sleeping accommodations are dedicated to the families for the entire host week.

 

When guests arrive on Sunday, they come with their belongings and perhaps a few of their children’s favorite toys. They want to arrange their space as if it were their home.

 

The guest guidelines call for a maximum stay of 30 days. However, Network directors often extend the stay as long as families are making good-faith efforts to find housing. In some communities, families can find housing within 30 days. In other communities—where there is a severe shortage of affordable housing and waiting lists for public housing, finding a home can take 60 days or more.  In Networks, about 76 percent of the guest families find permanent housing, often with volunteers help.

 

Host congregations change every week or two, but the Day Center at Hope Methodist Church remains the same, providing a home base. Homeless families come through referrals from many places, Gibbons said. “We talk to the Barry County United Way, the schools, churches and individuals.”  

 

Family Promise is a nonprofit 501(c) 3, so funds are raised through grants and fundraising and from individuals, congregations, and corporations. Local or state foundations may also provide seed money.  As an organization for families in transition, Family Promise has more than 192 affiliates in 39 states and 6,000 congregations and 160,000 volunteers in the Networks.

 

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