Family Promise of Wake County lives up to its name, keeping families together while they get back on their feet after homelessness.
Executive Director Danielle Butler says many shelters in the county don’t allow families to stay together, often separating fathers from their children and older male children from their mothers.
“[The restrictions] are adding an additional stressor to the families at a time when they are already in crisis. We pride ourselves on keeping families together. We allow the families to define the families,” Butler said.
Family Promise began in 1994 as Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network and has grown into a full continuum of services for families experiencing homelessness. The national affiliate’s founder, Karen Olson, realized that churches have empty facilities for most of the week.
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“That’s how we keep the families together. We put one family in each room at churches,” Butler said.
Two churches in Wake County each week provide shelter, meals and transportation for up to five families, serving 10 families a night. Families can spend up to 12 weeks being housed in churches. In January, Dalia Ramos and her 9-year-old daughter were seeking just such a place of peace and safety.
“When I got the call from Family Promise and they explained the process to me, that it was going from church to church until you can save enough money, it was an answer to prayer,” said Ramos, who had become homeless after a being a victim of violence in 2016.
Ramos, who was employed at the time, got to the church at 6 p.m. and left at 7 a.m. after a full night’s sleep in a private room. She and her daughter received dinner, evening entertainment, breakfast and a bagged lunch, all provided by host congregations.
Those who don’t have jobs go to the day center on Method Road, a kind of home base for families in transition. They meet with caseworkers, pursue employment using one of the guest offices, do laundry, take showers and access daily hygiene items. Many of these supplies are donated.
Family Promise also provides permanent and transitional housing programs. A 12-unit apartment building next to the day center provides stable housing and intensive case management. Rapid Rehousing sets families up in housing and “wraps services around them” to keep them stable, Butler said. New Lease on Life offers families leaving the transitional housing program high-quality apartments at reduced and affordable rates for 1 to 2 years if the family continues to receive case management services.
In 2016, Family Promise served 118 families across these programs. More than 70 percent of the annual budget comes from private donations, and 91 percent of that budget is poured back into programs, according to the group’s 2016 annual report. The group relies on its 3,500 volunteers, including congregations who house families and those who help at the day center, Butler said.
A stable foundation
Those who are employed while staying in church shelters are required to save 75 percent of their income. Those in the transitional housing complex are required to save 40 percent of their income.
“Some of them can leave after 8 to 12 weeks with over $1,000, which is often enough for security deposits,” Butler said. Those in transitional housing can save even more over the 9 to 12 months they usually stay, she said.
Ramos, who is now in her own home, is by no means completely on her own, though.
“They helped me put all my ducks in a row to be sure I had enough money and continued to work and have my bills paid,” Ramos said.
Butler says the program puts these families on the path to stability. The center hosts weekly life skills classes where families can learn such skills as healthy eating on a budget, making a budget, career planning, parenting skills and more. Aftercare is handled by one caseworker who may make a call once a month or do a home visit depending on what the family says it needs, Butler said.
Ramos will spend her first Thanksgiving this year in a three-bedroom house that Family Promise helped her find. She is still in touch with a caseworker from the group.
“Whenever I’m anxious, I call my caseworker,” she said. “Family Promise has been my guardian angel.”
Family Promise of Wake County
903 Method Road Raleigh, NC 27606
Contact: Danielle Butler, 919-832-6024
Description: Family Promise’s mission is to transform the lives of families experiencing temporary homelessness by helping them find support services and safe, affordable, permanent housing in our community.
Donations needed: Our wish list includes paper products,cleaning supplies (please no no dish detergent or disinfecting wipes), baby wipes, toiletries, phone cards, bus passes to use in Day Center; comforters, sheet sets, bath towels, dishes, silverware, pots, pans and cooking utensils for use in transitional housing apartments. For a full list of needs go to nando.com/triangle gives. Donations accepted 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Volunteers needed: Monitors are needed to open or close the Day Center, implement guest guidelines, and take phone messages. Volunteers commit to three to five hour shifts a few times throughout the year on Saturdays and Sundays and holidays. Or, volunteer for a Monday night Life Skills Class to provide care and/or dinner for the children while adult guests are in class from 5:45 until 7:30 p.m. Volunteers also need for a variety of maintenance projects, cleaning, painting, landscaping and washing vans. Volunteers are asked to commit to working at least four shifts per year.
$10 would buy: One day of food for one person in our shelter.
$20 would buy: One night of shelter for one person.
$50 would buy: One week of housing for a family in our transitional housing program.