Family Promise to open region's first family shelter

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 12, 2018 at 11:51 PM

Family Promise of Greater Johnson City, a nonprofit network of 53 area churches that provides long-term transitional shelter, housing and support services to help homeless families with children get back on their feet, plans to open an overnight shelter for families in emergency need when its transitional programs are full.

While no target date has been set for the opening of a unique shelter that will allow homeless mothers, fathers and children to stay together, Executive Director Bob Hall said Family Promise has confirmed the need, budgeted the funding and is actively searching now for a suitable location.

“We have our board’s support. We have the money in our budget. It’s a need we think we can meet. And we’re moving forward,” Hall said. “We don’t have a date but we are working on it every day and we hope it will be 2018.”

Operations Director Alison Smith said the need was evident in the number of homeless families who go to Family Promise in crisis situations but must be referred to other agencies because both the in-church shelter program and its longer-term transitional housing programs it operates are full.

Family Promise tracked its data over a three-month period and found that on average it referred 15 homeless families per month to other agencies and programs between September and December. “That’s the need that is not being met right now,” Smith said. “And a shelter is very much in line with what we do.”

Hall described the shelter and an expansion rather than a replacement of the existing Family Promise programs.

Hall said another Family Promise affiliate in Spokane, Washington, is already operating an overnight family shelter to complement its other programs, and has been collaborating with the local network on what will be required and what can be expected.

“We reached out to them and they have been very helpful in offering us their guidance,” he said. “They said we will be surprised by the response and we will be full all the time.”

Hall said the initial plan is for the shelter to accommodate up to five families, or a maximum of 25 people, per night, for overnight hours only and for a maximum of 30 days. “We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves starting out. A lot of it will be trial and error as we learn what works for us and what doesn’t,” he said.

At this point, Smith said, the most important step is to find the right location with amenities the families needs, such as public transportation, a neighborhood that is conducive to a shelter and a building that meets all the applicable fire and safety codes.

“It’s going to take the right place,” she said. “We do need it now. But we also need to be good stewards of our resources. So we’re taking our time to find just the right place, so it will last.”

More information about the Family Promise program can be found online at familypromisejc.com or  by calling 423-202-7805.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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