By Katy Penner
With stats and input from Carrie Corliss & Jacqueline Cook Green
We each have this human gift of belonging to offer.
Before we all got into this Family Promise work, we were surprised and heartbroken to learn:
- One in four homeless persons is a child,
- One in five is a child five years old or younger.
- Children experiencing homelessness get sick four times more often as other kids, have four times as many respiratory infections, two times as many ear infections, and five times as many gastrointestinal problems.
- These children are four times more likely than their peers to show delayed development, and they graduate at a lower rate than their peers.
- Children experiencing homelessness are 34x more likely to end up in foster care.
- 30% of children in foster care could return to their parents if their parents had access to housing.
As my friend (and our Founder) Carrie Corliss says, these children are why we started Family Promise of Greater Wichita, to KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER because every child in our community deserves to have hope, health, and a home.
We also are giving families an extended family network to belong with, people to call their own.
This offer of belonging is about doing life WITH others, walking through the fun as well as the hardships.
I have witnessed this with guests in the program, finding family connections:
I see case managers in their lives daily, which is very unique, sharing more twists and turns in life than a weekly meeting at an agency. I see staff asking how today’s job interview went, holding guests accountable to their goals and loving them along the way. Guests have repeatedly said that “people actually care here.” I know that other agencies have caring and loving staff and volunteers, but I think what we have to offer is the personal family touch.
With other guests
I recently was at the Day House on a Saturday afternoon, and I could overhear several moms coordinating plans for bath times, who would be cleaning which parts of the house, and how they would get it all done before time to depart for the host congregation that day.
When I think about the most powerful gifts we have to give to homeless families who come to Family Promise, belonging keeps resurfacing.
Many people are willing to give money. Others can give some time. But the quality of entering in to another person’s circumstance is where the good stuff begins.
You might be involved for other reasons, but faith is a big piece of it for me. I think this entering into life is something Jesus offered when he came to be with us on earth, showing us how to love and taking responsibility for our sin and suffering so we can do life with God.
This quote is frequently repeated in homelessness advocacy: “People don’t become homeless because they run out of money; they become homeless because they run out of relationships.”
This has never seemed more true to me. The best gift we can offer is a space to belong, allies in the struggle, a network of people to partner with.
The families are offering belonging to us too! When they give hugs as a I arrive at the day house, or a word of encouragement as I work, I see this. One little 4-year-old girl frequently interrupted meetings in the Day House living room when she was in the program, to come sit on a volunteer lap or talk to Jackie. And we all loved it.
I see volunteers bonding with each other too as they share a common mission. My hope is that this will continue as we seek out congregations of other denominations and faiths to join us. We are all on the same team about family homelessness.
We want to express our deep gratitude for the hospitality you have shown to our guest families since we opened just one year ago.
Because of your commitment and involvement, we have some awesome numbers to report.
- More than 500 individuals, who are members of a family with children, have been provided services across all phases of our program (urgent/rotation/aftercare).
- Through your countless donations of supplies, many of these families were provided diapers, toiletries, transportation, a place for showers and laundry, and other resources to meet immediate needs.
- Your gifts of time, talent and treasure made it possible for 57 individuals, comprised of 18 adults and 39 children, to be brought into our rotation program, where they received caring support from our staff, interns, and volunteers, they set and met goals, and they learned and practiced budgeting, parenting, and critical life skills needed to steward their family and a home of their own.
- You served a total of 16 families in the Rotation Program.
Thanks to the efforts of your congregation together with 28 others across Greater Wichita:
- 2,277 bed nights of shelter were provided in houses of worship.
- 6,831 meals were lovingly prepared and provided.
- Approximately 990 rides were given to help children get to school and day care, and parents to classes and work. I actually think this number is low…
- Through your donations of vehicles, 5 families are working toward a vehicle of their own as a huge step toward independence.
- Since our first family graduated on February 18, 2017, we have assisted six additional families from our rotation program into permanent or transitional housing.
- Two more families are on track to graduate this next week!
- Four families are currently in our aftercare program, which we are expanding to partner with the Wichita Circles Network.
- You celebrated graduations and provided furniture and household items to get families settled into their new homes. These families are now working on longer-term goals to keep moving forward.
- One of these families moved into our very first transitional housing unit, where they pay an affordable 30% of their income in rent while building good rental history with the added support that you have provided through mentoring and tutoring.
We have accomplished many great things this year, and we have learned so much together.
But we have more work to do. The need is still so great.
We must continue to learn and work to improve our existing services to meet the needs of homeless families here in our community.
You can be involved in expanding our reach to more families in need by:
- Talking to other congregations, businesses, and civic organizations about joining our efforts (we are recruiting more congregations for a SECOND rotation to serve twice as many families).
- Donating or organizing a supply drive for diapers, hygiene products, or small gift cards to grocery stores or gas stations. See our Wishlist.
- Volunteering to help transform the lives of children and families with your time and talent, and entering info life with guests. We especially need Day House workers — volunteer signup is here.
Everyone has something to contribute, so please take a look at the needs and ask yourself, “What can I do?”
We’ve had a big year. 🙂
We are sharing more than a bed, a meal, a ride. We are opening a whole network of support to families, and to ourselves, through involvement with Family Promise. These connections mean that resources are accessible, that friends in a homeless crisis don’t have to go through life alone, that through stability children are empowered to succeed and impact the world even deeper.
Together with the families we serve, we are partnering to change family trees. I don’t think that’s overstating it.
Love and belonging are some of the most powerful gifts we can offer each other. Who else in your life might need this offer?
Family Promise of Greater Wichita unites hearts and hands to provide compassionate hospitality and empower homeless families with children to achieve sustainable independence. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.