Statistics vary, but the fact remains the same: Approximately half of American workers live paycheck to paycheck. What happens to a family when a major crisis strikes, and they miss a couple of paychecks?
Mandy Stinnett Adkins, executive director of Family Promise of Blount County, sees the results of a crisis in the faces of families she works with every week.
“A loss of a job can result in homelessness,” says Adkins.
Whether the absence of a paycheck is the result of a health crisis or because of a lay off, the reality can be frightening. Foreclosure or eviction can mean homelessness for a family. Thanks to Family Promise of Blount County, people who are living this reality now have help.
Family Promise of Blount County was begun earlier this summer and has had one family successfully graduate from the program and into their own home. They are currently serving three more families. The program, also known as a hospitality network, is a local affiliate of the national inner-faith program that has been helping homeless families for more than 20 years.
Adkins said Family Promise programs are successful because of the two major components, the Day Center and the host and support congregations that provide housing for the families on a weekly basis.
At the Day Center, located at Green Meadow United Methodist Church, families in the Family Promise program receive case management services. Here, needs are accessed so that families can be connected with the appropriate services.
“The ultimate goal of our program is independence,” Adkins said. “We assist our families in securing permanent jobs and housing so that they become self-sufficient.”
The Day Center provides a permanent address and phone number which is vital for those looking for employment. A computer is available to help with the job search and with resume writing. Showers and laundry facilities are also on site and a van is available to transport the families to the host church where families stay during the evenings.
Thirteen local churches have stepped up as host congregations. As host congregations, they provide accommodations and meals for the family one week at a time. These churches do not have to shoulder the responsibility alone. There are 11 support congregations who help with meal preparations and provide supplies so that each family feels at home throughout their stay.
“Things are going very well with the program,” Adkins said of the support network program that has been up and running since June. “Our partner churches have opened their doors to families in need in this community. At Family Promise, we are so grateful for the support we have received.”
Adkins said approximately 800 to 1,000 volunteers from area churches have contributed to the success of the program. A local pediatrician has donated her services in addition to a local chiropractor. One church member who is a hair stylist offers her services to program participants. Adkins said volunteers have also helped by making quilts for the families in need.
“The feedback from volunteers has been excitement,” Adkins said.
Family Promise, almost two years in the making, was first discussed at a meeting of the Blount County Ecumenical Action Council when representatives of the Family Promise of Knoxville came and shared success stories of the program. Volunteers from BCEAC toured Family Promise of Knoxville and met staff members and program participants.
The national Family Promise program performed a needs assessment to determine if Blount County could support a program. When the national program representatives came for a question and answer meeting, more than 70 community members attended and became instrumental in the program’s development. A 15-passenger van was donated to help with the transportation needs and area churches pledged their services and support for the program.
In November 2008, Green Meadow United Methodist Church became the future site of the program’s Day Center. In addition to providing a centralized location for the families in the program, the Day Center also is home to the program staff offices.
Adkins said Family Promise of Blount County can effectively serve a maximum of four families at one time. The host congregations involved in the program are Beech Grove Baptist Church, Broadway Baptist Church, Carpenter’s Campground United Methodist Church, Fairview United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of Maryville, Forest Hill Baptist Church, Friendsville First Baptist Church, Maryville First United Methodist Church, Monte Vista Baptist Church, Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul Lutheran Church and Sycamore Tree United Methodist Church.
Churches that support the host congregations are Alcoa First United Methodist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, Broadway United Methodist Church, Embassy Christian Center, Friendsville First United Methodist Church, Highland Presbyterian Church, Middlesettlements United Methodist Church, New Providence Presbyterian Church, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Peck’s Memorial United Methodist Church and St. John United Methodist Church.
Adkins said that if an area church still wants to become involved, the minister can contact Family Promise of Blount County at 865-233-4737 or my emailing info@BlountFamilyPromise.org. For other ways to contribute, visit www.blountfamilypromise.org.