February 6, 2015
by MaryPat Potts, Director of Adult Faith Formation, Community Life, Social Justice & Charity
Families Moving Forward: Ending homelessness one family at a time – This program is a part of the umbrella organization of Beacon, and offers families experiencing homelessness some hospitality, emergency shelter and a path to home with support for stability.
How does the program operate?
Volunteers from more than 60 congregations throughout the Twin Cities metro area create shelter space at their congregation sites. In addition to a safe place to sleep and a warm meal and activities for kids, volunteers share kindness and compassion with families experiencing homelessness. That’s what we do here at St. Ed’s, up to twice each year. Completing the circle of support, FMF’s professional staff works closely with each family to address their unique barriers to stability, so they may leave our shelter program for permanent housing.
How many families does FMF serve?
FMF capacity is 12 families at a time, 8 at FMF-Hennepin and 4 at FMF-Southwest. Families are often referred to FMF by counties; another service agency or even word of mouth.
What is a day in the program like?
Everyone has a routine, and families say that’s really important to them. During the day families use the Program Centers as a hub (Minneapolis or Prior Lake.) There is storage space for personal belongings, a kitchen, laundry machines, computer access, a living room, children’s play area and a quiet room. School buses pick up children for school or HeadStart here, and bring them back at the end of the day. Parents go to work, meet regularly with our staff, search for housing and jobs, meet for financial literacy class, do laundry and care for their children. In the evenings, congregations take turns weekly to open their doors to welcome families. We arrange for bus transportation from the Program Centers to hosting congregations each night, and the return trip in the morning. The night shelter program relies on the commitment and compassion of congregational volunteers.
Does FMF help families find homes?
Yes. Parents work with our staff advocates with the goal of securing stable housing with- in 60 days of arriving. FMF will support about 75 families this year to find a home.
Here at St. Ed’s – The last week in January 2015, we hosted 4 families
1 family of 6 all staying in one room (where the dad and his 2 older teen boys all had jobs); 3 single moms each with 1 child, each in their own room. They were the nicest people! I was also so proud of some of our volunteers who took action to em- power one mom to make a meaningful change in her life and get her Certified Nursing Assistant License, so she could get a job, by donating to the FMF Center the money she was short! We had 85 volunteers who put in a combined 401 volunteer hours – and that’s on a week where we barely had enough volunteers to make this work! And our volunteer FMF Coordinators are the best! – so dedicated and so well organized and made the volunteers feel so comfortable! But God provided us with just the right families, who had the right age and right number of kids, too! The little girls had so much fun playing dress-up and were so cheerful. One young guest, the 13-year-old girl, left a note on the whiteboard in her room:
“I would like to thank St. Edward’s, (and a few dedicated, compassionate people were named) and all the volunteers! I loved coming back (a returning family) and am sad to go! Thank you to the church for hosting and having us stay here. Thank you to ____ (teen) for keeping me company so we could hang out and laugh! _____ (other volunteers) for being another mom to me! You guys were so sweet and I want to see you soon. God Bless you and I hope for the best!”
That is why we do this. And also because we are being the hands and feet of Jesus and making a real difference in people’s lives by accepting them, caring for them, being here for them. Maybe someday you, too, could experience this incredible miracle!