Family Promise to help homeless school children

Published 9:55 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

Try sleeping in your car for the night. Add your spouse, and the kids.

Do it again the next night, and the next …

It doesn’t sound like fun. And it isn’t.

Or you could try taking the family – a mother and father, and several kids – and crowding into a hotel room; not because you’re on vacation, but because you have nowhere else to go. Plug in hotplates to cook whatever food you can in such a small space.

That doesn’t sound like fun, either. And it isn’t.

But it’s reality for more than 60 children who attend Davie County Schools and are considered homeless.

A group led by the Rev. Darren Crotts, pastor at Smith Grove United Methodist Church, want to help. They’re going to help, and have established a Family Promise chapter here. Families should benefit next year.

The goal is to have families with homeless children spend the night in a participating church. During the day, the children go to school and the adults, either to work or to a separate day center where they learn job and life skills, and can be directed to services that could help get them back on their feet.

The idea came during a meeting between Crotts and Sue Boggs at Smith Grove. They found out how Family Promise is working elsewhere, and began working to make it a reality in Davie County.

You can’t just sign up to join Family Promise. It requires a commitment from churches and church members, as well as the organizing group. Family Promise has made several trips to Davie County to make sure the program can work here.

Crotts recalls those first meetings with Family Promise representatives. At first, 28 people showed up, then 69 were at the next meeting. Family Promise of Davie County was born.

It has achieved non-profit status, and is raising money to get the program started. Crotts estimates it will take about $120,000 a year to keep it going, which will include a full-time case worker as well as part-time employees. They already have the promise of a van for transportation, and of computers for the day center. A donation for the day center will happen soon. Crotts has faith.

“We want to make sure we do it right,” he said. “We’re going to use church buildings as a place for homeless children and families. We’re going to focus on breaking the cycle.”

The program will stay within certain parameters (three or four families, never more than 14 people). Ten churches have signed up to be hosts, 10 more are needed. That way, churches would host the families for a week about four times a year. Host churches provide volunteers (Family Promise volunteers will always be there), a place to spend the night (It can be Family Promise cots put in Sunday School classrooms), and a meal, which the families serve themselves.

Families will be transported to and from the day center each night and morning. Showers and laundry facilities will be available at the day center, and the children will catch school buses there, as well. Family vehicles will not be parked at the churches. The families can use the day center as their address. No permanent address makes it difficult to find jobs and get help from other agencies, Crotts said.

“It’s going to come together. We have faith. Somebody is going to supply us with a day center. Somebody is going to provide us with a van. God is going to supply our needs, and it’s happening,” he said.

Volunteers are already pitching the program among local churches. And residents like the program. Elbaville Methodist, with a relatively small congregation, signed on early. It’s members are committed.

Churches have three options: becoming a host church, a support church, or encouraging members to volunteer with the program at other churches.

“These folks are not coming to your church to take advantage of you,” Crotts said. “They’re appreciative to have a place to stay, to have a home for the week.”

The average length of stay with Family Promise is 64 days. After that, families have found employment and other housing. While many have jobs, the ones Crotts calls the “working poor,” they don’t have enough money or knowledge to find somewhere to live. Some pay as much as $1,000 a month for a local motel room.

While churches provide meals, the families are required to serve themselves and clean up afterwards. “We let the parents serve their children. It helps them maintain dignity and keeps the respect of their children.

“We’re going to break the cycle of homelessness,” Crotts said. “It’s worked in 200 places around the country and it will work here. It’s a huge issue. The philosophy of Family Pormise is to handle the homeless issue in small ways. That makes it manageable for people to help. Who couldn’t volunteer less than eight hours a year to help a homeless child?”

If families go to a shelter to stay, they become separated, Crotts said. The men to one place, women to the other, and children … they’re accepted at even fewer shelters.

“A shelter is not the answer. We’re helping teach children how to get out of poverty.”

Churches and their members benefit, as they can see benefits of their work, Crotts said. “It will make our community even stronger. We’re all human.”

To learn more or arrange a presentation for a church, call Crotts at 336-909-1919.