Family Promise of Effingham County has opened its doors to hosting homeless families in the community.
The non-profit organization helps homeless families get back on their feet, while local churches take turns hosting the families for a week at a time.
The Effingham chapter formed in early 2013 and, following a year-and-a-half of raising money and securing other resources, welcomed its first family — of two adults and four children — on June 26.
“We’ve been wanting to help families for a year-and-a-half. As soon as we heard that Effingham had so many homeless kids, everyone involved in Family Promise wanted to start helping that day,” said Brian Dickey, who helped start Family Promise of Effingham County and now serves as president of its board of directors.
The organization first needed churches to agree to serve as hosts, and it secured a dozen in Effingham County. Family Promise also procured a building on Laurel Street in Springfield for its day center, where families can look online for available jobs or fill out housing applications, do laundry or take a shower prior to heading to the host church for the night.
Through the property owner’s generosity, Family Promise is renting the day center building for $1 a year. Local businesses donated labor and supplies to renovate the building, and many volunteers worked “thousands of man hours” to have the day center ready for the first family at the end of June, Dickey said.
“The family was really excited to come and even just sit in the ‘quiet room’ and relax and just be able to be somewhere that’s comfortable for them,” said Ashley Moore, who came on board May 12 as Family Promise of Effingham County’s first executive director.
Moore became familiar with Family Promise through her work with Union Mission, an organization that helps Savannah’s homeless. She is the Effingham chapter’s only full-time employee.
“This program works because it’s volunteer-driven,” Moore said. “Probably the easiest aspect so far has been finding people who are willing to pitch in and be supportive and help us out.”
The family being assisted now was referred by social worker Jackie Brown, the Effingham County School System’s homeless liaison and a Family Promise of Effingham board member. Brown has identified 65 families as currently homeless in Effingham County.
The family of six is on its way to being off that list. The father has found a job, according to Moore, and Family Promise is helping them find permanent, affordable housing.
Family Promise is designed to be an approximately 90-day program for a family to gain a reliable income, a roof over their heads and “nothing that would lead us to believe they’re going to fall back into a homeless situation,” Dickey said. However, he added, the average length of stay among Family Promise affiliates nationwide is 64 days.
“So in just over two months, to take a family from being fully dependant and homeless to having their own place to stay and a sustainable income, is incredible,” Dickey said. “I don’t know of any other social agency that has that success rate.”
Family Promise can host up to 14 people at a time, though eight to 10 is typical for affiliates Dickey has contacted. The Effingham chapter gradually will start hosting more families.
“We’re going to try to stagger it, just so we don’t overwhelm ourselves and our churches who are doing it for the first time,” Moore said.
Along with Family Promise securing host churches, volunteers and the day center, fundraising is an ongoing effort. The Effingham chapter exceeded one of its stipulations — to raise at least 40 percent of its approximately $120,000 annual budget, and have an ongoing plan to raise the rest, prior to hosting any families.
“We’re hoping, at the end of the year, to blow our budget out of the water,” Dickey said. “We fully expect we can do that.”
However, that’s just part of Dickey’s vision for Family Promise of Effingham. He wants the organization to look for other ways to benefit the community, even beyond the homeless population.
“Hosting these homeless families just a few at a time is a great start, but we have bigger dreams than that with Family Promise,” Dickey said. “With the support of the community, our business partners and with God’s help, we’ll get there.”
Family Promise of Effingham
To make a contribution or get involved with Family Promise of Effingham County, call (912) 268-0373 or email email@example.com. For more information, visit effinghamfamilypromise.org.