BRANDON — As a contingent of churches prepares for the latest in a short string of fundraisers to help homeless families, volunteers hope their efforts will encourage others to follow suit.
Family Promise is a local off-shoot of a national program, which provides help and encouragement to homeless families, to get them short-term housing and help them find jobs or other necessary services. But to get the program up and running, they need about $95,000. Church partners have raised about a third of that so far.
A nearly sold-out dinner, concert and auction scheduled at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon on Nov. 2 could bring in another $10,000, but much more is needed, said Family Promise Vice President Skip Wilson. The program needs a full-time director and funds to keep it rolling along. It also needs participation from two more churches.
“About 3,200 kids in Hillsborough County say they are homeless,” Wilson said, quoting statistics from school district counselors. “That’s second only to Miami-Dade. We can’t solve that, but we can make a difference.”
“When we started looking into getting involved in this program, there were 150 Family Promise programs across the country,” said Rev. Tim Black of First Presbyterian. Now, there are 190, he said, pointing to the growing need.
Here’s how the program works: First Presbyterian of Brandon donated a house behind its sanctuary at 121 Carver Street that will serve as a day center for Family Promise. Each Sunday, families in the program — up to 14 individuals from three to five families — will gather there and be transported, with their personal belongings, to that week’s host church.
The host church — there are 11, locally — will provide them with a place to sleep and breakfast and lunch fixings the next morning, after which they will return to the day center. The children will catch buses to school and their parents can look for jobs, get counseling, and sign up for needed services.
“Nationwide, this program has an 80 percent success rate” within about 60 days, Wilson said. “It only includes families with children who are willing to agree to a work plan to help themselves out of their homeless situation. This is a hand-up, not just a hand-out,” Wilson said. “We want to help them to help themselves.”
“This is just one of the spokes in the community’s wheel of assistance,” Black said. And Family Promise is not just another program, but an addition to non-profits like Emergency Care Help Organization, the Brandon Outreach Clinic and other groups that offer a hand to the down-trodden.
The dinner coming up in November is called “There’s No Place Like Home,” said event Chair Terrie Morrison. And continuing that theme, First Presbyterian has a program called Follow the Yellow Brick Road, which has a list of about 20 different ways people can donate toward Family Promise.
For those who have $25 to contribute, there are items like lamps, dry erase boards and games they can purchase. If someone has $500, there is a need for computers. And anyone with $25,000 to contribute might opt to purchase a used passenger van for the program, Wilson said.
To learn more about the churches involved and the program itself, or to donate, go to www.familypromiseofgreaterbrandon.org.