Homelessness can happen to anyone – a person you see in the grocery store, the server at a restaurant where you eat, or a child in school. “There is quite a misconception about what homelessness looks like,” says Lindsay Moore, Network Director of Family Promise of Genesee County. Family Promise is a national non-profit organization that takes a community-based approach to solving the problem of homelessness. In a joint effort, local communities and churches cooperate to help homeless families stay together. Family Promise provides resources, support and training as the families work to become self-reliant.
Family Promise of Genesee County opened its doors in 2012 to address homelessness in Genesee County. “The program is meant to be a different approach to ending homelessness,” Moore explains. “Our focus is graduation to a sustainable situation for families and to help them find a permanent place to live.” Based at Calvary Methodist Church in Flint, the organization has a Day Center that offers members of homeless families a laundry facility, showers, and a place where they can look for employment and housing. In addition, they can take Life Skill classes such as budgeting and meal planning. The Day Center provides a temporary address for families, which is often required when seeking assistance.
Across Genesee County, 15 churches of all denominations host homeless families, giving them an evening meal and a place to sleep. Family Promise owns 14 beds, which travel to each of the host churches. “Church volunteers provide the dinners, and the families become guests in the truest sense,” explains Moore. “The volunteers and guests eat dinner together in a family-style setting. There is a strong sense of community.” Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own children to the meal, because kids are a priority of Family Promise. The Day Center is closed on Saturdays, as most of the families have relatives and friends in the area and spend most of their weekends with them.
According to Moore, there are currently four families they are assisting; each has at least one family member that is employed. “It is a 60-day program, but if a family is making progress, we will work with them longer,” says Moore. She believes that the Family Promise model helps families that “slip through the cracks of the system,” but are not chronically homeless. “They are not living on the street – but they often move from home to home of various relatives or friends,” Moore explains. “They are doing everything they can to keep their family together and their heads above water. Most of the time they are working, but can’t make ends meet and end up losing their home.”
Family Promise of Genesee County is funded entirely by grants and donations. The majority of their funds are raised at two annual events – a gala in February and the Give Me Shelter 5K Walk/Run in August. The organization is run by a four-member, part-time staff. “We actually have employed one of our graduates,” Moore says, adding that many graduates of the program come back to volunteer. “I love watching the encouragement and camaraderie between the graduates and the families.” So far, Family Promise of Genesee County has had 19 families graduate from the program. “Nearly all of them are still housed!” Moore exclaims. “We have been blessed.”
Family Promise is not a faith-based organization and the homeless families are not required to attend services at the host churches. “We are working with community organizations, local churches and other places of worship to end homelessness,” says Moore, “one family at a time.”
How You Can Help
Visit familypromiseofgc.org/donations. Donations by mail are gratefully accepted: P.O. Box 4519, Flint, MI 48504. Please make checks payable to: Family Promise of Genesee County.
The Day Center becomes a home base during the day, so it is stocked with many items. Family Promise is always accepting donations of body wash, razors for men and women, shaving cream, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes, children/adult toothpaste, African-American hair-care products, deodorant for men and women, laundry baskets, large black trash bags, tall white trash bags, household cleaning products, tote bags, children’s cough/cold medicine, adult cough/cold medicine, adult headache/pain medicine, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, pump soap for the bathrooms, toilet paper, paper towel, paper plates, plastic silverware, and baby wipes.
Family Promise of Genesee County is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are 100 percent tax deductible to the extent allowed by the law.
“We are working with community organizations, local churches and other places of worship to end homelessness. One family at a time.”
Photography by Eric Dutro