Archive for Sunday, November 29, 2009

Family Promise going strong after 1 year

Roxanne Hutchinson laughs with her daughter Jasmine, 12, as the two make banana bread Wednesday in preparation for Thanksgiving in the kitchen of their Lawrence home. After becoming homeless in January, the mother and daughter stayed at various churches around Lawrence until finding a home through Lawrence Family Promise they moved into in April.

Roxanne Hutchinson laughs with her daughter Jasmine, 12, as the two make banana bread Wednesday in preparation for Thanksgiving in the kitchen of their Lawrence home. After becoming homeless in January, the mother and daughter stayed at various churches around Lawrence until finding a home through Lawrence Family Promise they moved into in April.

November 29, 2009


The holidays were a lot different for Lawrence resident Roxanne Hutchinson last year.

Hutchinson and her 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine, were facing eviction from their Eudora home after Hutchinson became disabled and could no longer work. The bills were piling up, and come Jan. 1 they’d be evicted.

“I couldn’t get any work ... I got really depressed. There’s just not enough money,” said Hutchinson of their fragile situation at the end of 2008.

But a year later, Hutchinson and Jasmine celebrated Thanksgiving with a small group of relatives in their new home — a duplex in Lawrence — and they don’t have to worry about where they’ll be after the holidays.

The improved outlook was made possible by the assistance of Family Promise, a Lawrence organization that helps homeless families.

“If it weren’t for Family Promise, I’d probably be living on the streets,” said Hutchinson. She and Jasmine were the first Family Promise participants to find permanent housing through the program, which helped Hutchinson secure Social Security disability benefits to go toward the rent on their duplex.

Community spirit

After celebrating its one-year anniversary of helping homeless families on Nov. 15, Family Promise executive director Valerie Miller-Coleman said the Lawrence community has stepped up to make the program a success.

“It’s just been amazing to see the community outpouring,” she said.

Family Promise, modeled after a national program, uses area congregations who open up their facilities one week at a time for up to four homeless families. The congregations also staff the facilities with volunteers, who do everything from child care to cooking to assisting with job searches. Participants in the program spend the day at the Family Promise office, working with staff on securing housing and dealing with other issues and obstacles to permanent housing.

Many of the participants make personal connections with the volunteers, said Miller-Coleman, including Jasmine, who can rattle off the names of the people she remembers who helped ease the pressure of homelessness during her and her mother’s four months in the program.

“I was just nervous,” Jasmine said. “It was hard, but it was still fun at the same time.”

Family Promise is now working with 26 area congregations, which supply hundreds of volunteers. The program has served 17 families so far, and seven of those have moved into permanent housing.

Miller-Coleman said the initiative of the volunteers to make the program work has impressed her.

“I couldn’t handle all their ideas,” she said.

An example is the air mattresses that the program was using for the participants.

“(The volunteers) said, ‘this isn’t good enough for our guests,’” Miller-Coleman said, and the volunteers went out and bought better beds.

The community support for Family Promise has the organization planning to expand so that it can handle a greater portion of the families waiting to get into the program.

“The demand was certainly there,” said Lawrence resident Joe Reitz, who founded the local program. And while Family Promise focuses on homeless families, Reitz hopes a similar model might help the larger homeless population in Lawrence.

Not having to worry

Hutchinson can now focus on the holidays, and not on where she and Jasmine will be living in a couple of weeks.

“I don’t have to worry about being kicked out,” she said, which means she can concentrate on preparing for the holidays in their new home.

“I do everything homemade,” Hutchinson said of the Christmas dinner she intends to cook.

Jasmine, on the other hand, gets to devote energy to making new friends at school, and being able to have them over whenever she wants.

But the best part of their new home?

“Just being able to have my own space,” she said.


Christine Anderson 8 years, 5 months ago

Like Informed, I am also grateful this program began. It's a wonderful thing, and most of us would be very hard-pressed to find anything negative about it. I was saddened and disgusted to learn that one of the churches which has previously taken turns hosting families has pulled out of the program, effective next rotation. Why? The leader decided "his" church could no longer host families which included unmarried couples. Judgement is not the point of Family Promise. Helping families like Roxanne and Jasmine, and the many others, that's the point! My feeling is, so what if some of the families are unmarried families? If the man is sticking around and trying to help rebuild his family's foundation, instead of abandoning them, shouldn't that be what counts? Married or unmarried, these are families, period. You know, it's real neat if we can preach and quote the Bible without looking it up. Sometimes, we love to preach the "Thou Shalt Not" part, and we forget the Love. Sometimes, we allow things to go on in our churches ((knowingly, mind you) which are far worse than a family where the parents are not legally married. Hmmm, like defending a man who murders his wife, male members who frequent adult toy stores, immigration and marriage fraud, etc Sometimes we are so busy picking the speck out of the eye of other persons we can't see the tree in our own eye. Yes, I'm poorly paraphrasing it, but I'm pretty sure we get the idea. In Matthew 25:31-45, Jesus has more than a few words to say which just might apply here. I'll only quote vs.41-46: "Then he will also speak to those on his left, saying, 'Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, needing clothes and you did not give them to me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they too will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick or in prison, and not take care of you?' And he will answer them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it for the least important of these people, you refused to do it for me!' They will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life." (Jewish New Testament)

dawn2002 8 years, 5 months ago

It is very interesting that churches pull out of the program due to lack of morals.Which is what that reasoning implies. What is also interesting is the process this orgainzation uses to "except" families into the program. It takes the "cream of the crop" as far as homeless families go. Folks who have had legal issues, domestic violence issues, or lack motivation(due to depression, caused by homelessness) are not eligable for the program. Leaving them to other shelters that are underfunded and crowded. Also, the program is dependant on churches, so at any time the entire program could go under. This makes the program extremely volitile and not ideal for families with children trying to establish stability. So while it has done some good things for a few families, I would like to remind everyone the issue of homeless families is not even remotely close to being answered by this organization. Success stories are much easier to produce when an organization gets to choose who they assist. Food for thought!

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