New center will help Brandon program serve homeless
BRANDON - From the outside, it looks much like any other 1960s-era renovated, modest, three-bedroom, two-bath house. But by next fall, within the walls of the 1,650-square-foot home, the heart of housing for Brandon’s homeless will begin beating. The Family Promise of Greater Brandon Day Center was dedicated this week, bringing together the resources of 12 churches with the goal of helping homeless families achieve independence and escape the cycle of poverty. Family Promise is a non-profit organization based in Summit, N.J., that uses educational outreach programming, policies and the hands-on work of thousands of volunteers to provide food, shelter and support services for homeless families. In addition, it provides advice and advocacy for at-risk families to prevent them from becoming homeless.Standing behind the new Family Promise Day Center, 201 E. Morgan St., about 30 people including the center’s staff, church ministers and guests gathered for the dedication. Among them was Family Promise Pres. Deborah Humphrey and Tim Black, associate rector of the First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, which owns the home and is leasing it to Family Promise for $1 a year. “We were convinced that this was the right thing to do; we saw this as a real opportunity,” said Black during the dedication. “There are multiple reasons to do this and very few to not. It has not been easy. There’s still much to do, but you have been faithful and we can serve Brandon in some powerful ways.” Family Promise works with churches in a network, providing lodging and meals for the homeless at their locations, Humphrey said. To get lodging, families first visit the Day Center, where a director and social worker provide case management services. Families are then directed to a church where they can pursue employment, tend to pre-school children, shower and do laundry. In addition, the Day Center provides families with a mailing address and base for employment searches and a van was donated for use last Christmas. Families stay in lodging at a host church overnight and then through the Day Center, rotate to another church. Pollard said families stay an average of 68 days before finding something more permanent. Churches participating with Family Promise Brandon are: First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, Brandon First United Methodist Church, Bay Life Church, Brandon Christian Church, Limona United Methodist Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church. At churches, Family Promise volunteers cook and serve meals, play with children and help with homework, stay overnight and provide services like resume writing, financial counseling or just talk and pray. There are about 160,000 volunteers nationwide. Family Promise operates in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Since Family Promise’s founding more than 20 years ago, the organization has served about 500,000 people, including tens of thousands who found temporary housing, according to its website. Family Promise Brandon serves as many as 15 people at any given time, said Humphrey. Following the ribbon cutting, staff and guests ventured into the new office where they found a functional kitchen, office space, a computer room that will soon have working stations and a lounge area. Wilson said so far, volunteers have cleaned the house, stripped and refinished the floors through a partial donation by Home Depot, installed a new air conditioner compressor and landscaped. Wilson said staff is looking to get a trailer donated. For information or to volunteer, visit www.familypromiseofgreaterbrandon.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.