You hear it in every news cast, every commercial, and every commentary: “These are unprecedented/challenging/uncertain times.” For the recently homeless families served by Family Promise of Greater, this is an understatement. Already teetering on the edge of homelessness again, many of the families are facing the added weight of job loss or reduction, childcare loss, safety concerns, and exacerbated mental health challenges. The moratorium on evictions and utility suspension has ended or will soon end. We have begun a fund for direct financial assistance for families needing rent or utilities paid until they can get back to work and catch up on their bills. Many of our supporters have received stimulus money they are not reliant upon, and have donated it to Family Promise specifically for this purpose.
One single mom, who has been forced to quit work (hopefully temporarily) due to childcare being closed, texted our Housing Stability Manager, "I've become a little depressed. Unemployment still hasn't started, and once it does, I'm only allowed $149 a week. Bills are behind. I'm scared I may end up homeless again. Unsure if work will be available in time, if this pandemic will subside. Everything is up in the air. Life is a trip, a journey. I'm just stumbling along, trying to make the best of it. Thanks for checking on us. We really appreciate you all very much. Praying that all families are doing well." We ask that you also include the families we serve in your thoughts and prayers.
In his statement about the Coronavirus the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Curry said, “We are in this together. What affects some directly affects all indirectly. We are part of a family. The human family of God.” The people of the Roanoke Valley’s faith community have lived that for years by serving area children and their families experiencing homelessness by welcoming them to stay the night in their facilities, and sharing meals with them. Family Promise has always been a welcoming place where hospitality is a primary focus. Homelessness is a difficult and lonely experience. Add shelter-in-place orders and the experience is even lonelier. Our guests have missed the hospitality you provide and contact with others. You can help Family Promise families feel part of the human family of God by sending cards, drawings, words of hope, and kids’ “fun kits” from you and/or your children to our office address for us to give to the families we help.
For the safety of the volunteers, staff, and guests, our hosting rotation program and in-person volunteer opportunities have been suspended. We have been able to temporarily shelter families in our Family Center and in a duplex owned by Family Promise. Our Program Manager has worked closely with them, and one family has moved into their own housing during the crisis. For now, our focus has pivoted mainly to caring for families who have been through our shelter program. Our staff is part of an intensified collaborative effort of community organizations, and are therefore able to refer families not only to the kind of help they may usually need, but to assistance unique to their needs during this pandemic. The families have been supported not only by our staff, but by volunteers doing what they can from a distance, like dropping off perishable foods, collecting paper goods and household cleaners, and sewing face masks for the children and their parents. If you would like to join the effort, you could organize a supplies drive (we can provide a wish list), provide hard-to find disinfectants for the families, and help us drop off needed items to families so they don’t have to take the bus any more than necessary.
Family Promise of Greater Roanoke has an active task force working on how we can safely continue sheltering families with the help of our network of volunteers moving forward. While we plan for the future partnering with the compassionate community of congregations, businesses, and organizations, please keep the Presiding Bishop Curry’s words in your hearts, “As our seasons of life in the COVID-19 world continue to turn, we are called to continue to be creative, to risk, to love. We are called to ask, ‘What would unselfish, sacrificial love do?’”