When Chris Frank was laid off from his job as a security guard last year, the sudden loss of a paycheck plunged his family into financial chaos.
Unable to make rent, Chris, his wife, April, and their three young children bunked with a succession of relatives and friends before finally ending up in a $275-per-week hotel room.
It was not a sustainable way to live.
So why did April Frank have a big smile as she pushed her 4-year-old daughter, Kendall, on a swing one morning last week?
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A timely nudge from a minister led the Franks to Pan Lutheran Ministries Families Together, a church-supported nonprofit that provides apartments at no charge for families in need.
During stays of three to five months, families are coached by “mentor-advocates” on how to save money, stick to a budget and even shop for bargains at the grocery store.
The idea is to give families a safe, stable place to live while they work toward self-sufficiency.
This summer, the organization will serve healthy breakfasts and lunches to about 25 children living at the complex with their families. The meals are part of the summer feeding program from the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.
April Frank, 33, says her family is grateful for the support.
“They’re here to let you know there’s a better way,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a struggle all the time.”
A pair of two-story apartment buildings serves as the East Raleigh headquarters for PLM Families Together, founded and supported by seven Wake County Lutheran churches.
The nonprofit stays connected with the families for one year after they move out on their own, to ensure they don’t slip back into poverty and homelessness.
Relying on church donations as well as private and government grants, PLM Families Together was a lifesaver for the 56 families it housed last year. The group also leases three apartments in North Raleigh.
About 30 families are currently on a waiting list, said executive director Beth Bordeaux.
“When we think of hunger, we think of Third World countries,” she said. “Sometimes local families just don’t have enough food.”
The Franks are proud of their progress. April works at a company that schedules showings for real estate agents. With the economy improving, her hours have begun to pick up, allowing the family to put money into a savings account.
The best part, she says, is being able to stay together while working through a difficult ordeal.
“We really didn’t want to divide our family,” she said. “Nobody wants to be separated.”