Thursday, December 20, 2012

Family Promise

I met with the volunteer coordinator at an organization called Family Promise with the hopes of finding a way to help kids affected by homelessness. I was really nervous going into the meeting. In retrospect, it was cold feet. I had felt so strongly about making a difference in these people's lives but now that I was coming face to face with the responsibility that this commitment might entail, I was coming up with many many reasons that it might not work out.  It will take too much time away from my family. It won't be safe. It's too far to drive. You name the objection, it came into my head. By the time I arrived at the meeting I had virtually talked myself out of the whole thing. I took a big deep breath and walked into their office.

The office was a tiny two room space cluttered with brochures, printers and laminate desks. I didn't see anyone at first and said a quick, "hello?" The volunteer coordinator came quickly around the corner to shake my hand. Her eyes radiated warmth and I relaxed a little. She ushered me into her office and started filling me in on the goals of Family Promise. They work to pay all of a family's basic expenses for a 90 day period so that they can work and save up to 90% of their income and get their own stable housing. They take in three to four families into their program at a time then require them to submit at least 12 job applications per week if they are unemployed. They are drug tested, supervised and have a curfew each night. There is a group of ten churches that house the families for a week at a time. This means that the families have to move every Sunday to a new church. When I asked why, she said that they don't want anyone to get too comfortable and stop looking for work or saving their money. The model works - They have an 89% success rate.

She said she hesitates to use the word "homeless" because people automatically think of a bum passed out on the sidewalk. She prefers the phrase, "between homes." She mentioned that the pictures of their clients make a big difference when she is presenting to groups. It worked for me, too. She showed me some pictures of recent families they have helped and all my hesitation disappeared. Those families look like my family, your family, anyone's family. One mom was pregnant with a smiling three year old. Another picture was of four kids under ten giggling together on the couch. They are the reason I want to do this. It's not their fault that their parents are struggling. They shouldn't ever have to fear that they will not have a roof over their head.

I submitted my application with a newfound sense of resolve. I will do what I can to help those families, even if it only means using my marketing experience to help fundraise or using my washer and dryer to help out with their laundry. Every little bit helps.

What objections are keeping you from reaching out to people who need a boost? How can you keep pushing forward?

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