Be the Change #45: My Night With the Homeless

Don’t worry, I wasn’t sleeping on a grate or under one of Pittsburgh’s 446 bridges.  I spent last Friday night in a comfortable home – and so did many others, thanks to the Family Promise program. 

My friend Patty’s parish, Saints Simon & Jude, is one of 16 churches in Allegheny and Washington Counties who serve as hosts for homeless families on a rotating basis.  When she told me about it the last time they hosted in December, I was so intrigued by this hands-on ministry that I asked if I could help out next time. 

I had it easy:  we had only one guest the evening I stayed overnight in the parish house.  I will call her Kelly.  A pretty, talkative young woman with an explosion of curly black hair, Kelly is the single mother of 4 children. Three of them stay with their grandmother.  The oldest is staying with her in the Family Promise host houses.  Kelly juggles two part-time jobs and is working hard to find permanent housing and bring her family back together. 

Before she connected with Family Promise, Kelly and her kids were “couch-surfing” with various friends and relatives. Most often, the 5 of them could not be accommodated together.  The program is providing her with a place to stay every night until she gets back on her feet, along with with housing referrals and budgeting assistance. They hold her accountable for managing her income so that she can save up enough for a security deposit.  She is also encouraged to build a little nest egg for emergencies.  The hope is that she won’t find herself homeless again the first time she faces an unexpected expense. 

Family Promise is a nationwide organization with 180 affiliates, 6000 participating congregations and over 135,000 volunteers. The Pittsburgh area has two Day Houses where the families can stay during the day when they are not at school or work.  They then spend that night at whichever local church is the host parish for that week.  Volunteers from the host parish drive the van that transports the families between the Day House and the nighttime host home.  Host parishes provide dinner, a small suite in the host house where families can spend the night together, and breakfast in the morning.  Most host houses can hold up to 4 families.

Did you know that 40% of the homeless are families?  And that 25% of the homeless are children?  Did you know that many programs will not accept single dads, or even fathers in 2-parent families?  In many programs, mom and children are welcome, but dad has to fend for himself.  Family Promise is one of the few programs that accept 2-parent families, single dads with children and families with teenage children.  They do not accept anyone with a criminal background that includes child abuse or violence of any kind.  They also do they accept current drug users, clients with untreated mental illness or families with a current domestic violence situation. 

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, or your church is seeking an outreach ministry, I’d encourage you to check out FAMILY PROMISE.  And I’m not just saying that because I had an easy night and breakfasted the next morning on delicious cinnamon rolls home-baked by some awesome Saints Simon & Jude parishioner! 

One Response to “Be the Change #45: My Night With the Homeless”

  1. Hi Kathy:

    Thanks for sharing this insight and the statistics regarding the high percentage of children and of families who are homeless. You have certainly raised my awareness with this data.

    The notion of homelessness is something to think about and certainly a cause to help and support…

    Keep on Keepin’ on,
    Vincent Johnson

Leave a Reply

Copyright 2014 Kathryn Bashaar | Design by | Adapted from PureType