The Need

A mother loses her job, a father can't work because of injury, a family is forced from their home by medical bills, by fire or natural disaster. Healthcare costs soar and affordable housing is almost impossible to find. These are some reasons why families now make up 40% of our homeless population, and why one of every four homeless people is a child.

In response to this crisis, the Interfaith Hospitality Network brings faith communities together in the Family Promise program to help families remain united while working to regain their housing, their independence and their dignity. Family Promise is a partnership of congregations within a community helping people just like ourselves, families who are experiencing homelessness. It offers an opportunity for volunteers of all faiths to work together to reduce homelessness and change lives for the better.

The Family Promise program currently operates in 39 states and the District of Columbia, in cities, suburbs and rural counties. It mobilizes already existing community resources: houses of worship for lodging, congregations for volunteers, social service agencies for assessment and referrals, and a physical facility to be used for daytime assistance and programs. These strategies help homeless families achieve independence at a third of the cost of traditional shelters. Nationally, 80% of families served in this manner continue on to long-term housing.

Family Promise provides a workable solution to family homelessness because it uses resources already in place and is proven to be flexible enough to respond to the specific needs of each community.

Family Promise: Our Response to Families in Crisis

The Jesus Our Shepherd Community has agreed to support the Family Promise program by offering hospitality, food and shelter to families who have lost their homes. Since we have no facilities in our Nenno church building, we are partnering with a Hartford area church that has the facilities: First United Methodist Church (FUMC) 738 W. Monroe Avenue (53027). Our responsibility in this partnership is to provide JOS volunteers to work alongside FUMC volunteers at their church to serve the people in the program.

Here's how the program works: There will be 13 Washington County congregations committed to be hosts. Each has sufficient facilities to house up to 14 people (parents and children) for one week at a time each quarter of the calendar year, offering these people hospitality, food and shelter. When the week is over, families rotate to the next host congregation for the following week, and so on through the remaining congregations. In this way no single congregation's resources will be overly strained.

FUMC & JOS volunteers will serve as hosts 4 to 5 times per year for one week at a time, providing hospitality, overnight lodging, supper, breakfast and a brown-bag lunch to families. During these weeks, families will be in the church building from 6:00pm till 7:00am the following morning.

During the day, school-age children will go to their schools for classes while parents with jobs will go to work. Those without work and cars will be transported to a day center to receive help with resume writing, job applications, apartment/home searches, etc. People with alcohol/drug addiction issues or psychiatric problems are screened out of this program.

JOS has made a one-year commitment to Family Promise, and we ask you to prayerfully consider volunteering your time, talents and efforts. Among the tasks volunteers will be doing during the hosting week are the following:

-- Preparing supper meals (in late afternoon at home or in the church kitchen);

-- Serving food to the families and cleaning-up afterwards;

-- Offering early evening hospitality to parents & children;

-- Overnight assistance (8:30pm to 7:00am), making breakfasts/bag lunches;

(You DO get to sleep too!)

-- Sunday morning clean-up (7:00am-8:30am after families leave) to prepare

for FUMC Sunday School classes;

-- Sunday afternoon set-up (4:30pm) for new families arriving Sunday evening.

You may choose to volunteer as a single, as a couple/group or with your children as a family. The more volunteers, the less often you'll need to help during the week we are hosting. You may come for just one day during our hosting week if that is all you can do. Any amount of help is appreciated. The hospitality extended to people in real need is an essential element of our Eucharist Community. We are called together by Jesus to serve people in need, to help establish God's reign on earth, a reign of peace and justice, compassion and thanksgiving. There will be a Volunteer Coordinator from Jesus Our Shepherd to work with the FUMC coordinator to make certain there are enough volunteers to help during the weeks we host.

The estimated financial cost to FUMC & JOS congregations for hosting up to 14 people for a week (food, extra heating, light, etc.) is between $150 and $200. To help defray this cost and to help fund the program, we have envelopes marked Family Promise available for your donations. Please use these envelopes, make your checks out to Jesus Our Shepherd and write Family Promise on the memo line.

Soon we will have a volunteer sign-up sheet available for those of you who are able and willing to make this commitment. We thank you for your generosity!

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