The Kennard family got back on their feet with the help of Family Promise. (Contributed)
This week, the national Family Promise organization is celebrating its 25th anniversary of helping homeless families with children regain their ability to sustain their own homes with the observance of Family Promise Week.
The celebration in especially meaningful in the greater Johnson City area, where the local Family Promise affiliate, formerly known as Interfaith Hospitality Network, is working through the first year of a five-year initiative to double the number of families it assists.
Dubbed “2X,” the initiative’s goal is to double the number of local church organizations that over the past 13 years have worked together to provide emergency shelter and wide range of support services needed by 470 local families with children to get back on their feet and back under their own roof.
“The premise of 2X is a times two building of the network to become twice as large as it is,” Brian Rosecrance, executive director of the local Family Promise affiliate, said. “We actually have more families on our waiting list than we can serve. At any given time, our waiting list has had 10 to 15 families at least for the past four years. Now we can take five families. 2X can take us to five more families from our waiting list.”
According to Rosecrance, the local Family Promise board and staff put the 2X initiative into motion last year after more than a year spent studying the community’s need for the expansion and what would be required to meet that need.
Committees were formed and issues were studied exhaustively. In the end, the five-year 2X plan was formulated to recruit twice the number of host and support churches that were aligned through the network and to increase the staff, day center and resource center and fleet of vehicles that play essential roles in helping the families regain their ability to sustain their own homes.
Now in its first year, Terry Welch, president of the Family Promise board of directors, said progress has been made in the recruitment of more church congregations.
“We began 2X at 32 churches. With five families you don’t need more than 30 churches, but to double the rotation you do,” he said.
According to Rosecrance, the network has grown to a total of 44 congregations, including 15 host churches that take turns housing the families overnight, 23 support churches whose volunteers help meet the families’ many various needs and six companion churches that provide financial support for the network’s work.
As for this week’s celebration, he said, “We call this Family Promise Week, and in many ways it is a celebration of 25 years of Family Promise but more important is calling attention to the problem of homeless families with children and it is a serious a problem in our area as it is in any others.
“It is that perfect financial storm that puts them out on the street and its a good thing to be able to help those folks,” Welch said.
Cindy Kennard, a Johnson City preschool teacher, said the storm that put her, her husband and their three daughters out of their home came in a “whirlwind” of illness, medical expenses not covered by insurance and car failure that over a course of eight months put her in a situation she never believed she would be in.
She and her husband were both college educated, both working and together maintaining a four-bedroom apartment when their downward spiral began. Eight months, two serious illnesses, two hospitalizations, one blown transmission, one vehicle repossession, one home downgrade and one eviction later, the five of them were doubling up at the home of a family friend.
“You would not believe the kindness of total strangers that was shown to us,” Cindy said of the 18 months she and her family lived in the host churches while they worked and saved money to get back on their feet. “The churches helped the girls with the things they needed for school. They took us out to eat. They bought clothes for me when I was going to job interviews.”
Now back in their own apartment and once again covering their own expenses, Cindy said her hope is to help Family Promise help other families who are hit by the same kind of whirlwind.
“One of our goals now is to get our church to help Family Promise,” she said.