000omgLast month several churches and local companies got together for a “bed race” to raise money for “Family Promise,” a new ministry for the homeless coming to the Ogden area. This is the entry from my church, CUMC featuring Izzy on the bed, Pastor Gary, Susan, and Mark pushing the bed. The event raised over 6,000 dollars in one day! (Picture: Trinity Presbyterian Church FB.)

For the last year or more, my church, Community United Methodist, has been working with other churches in the Ogden area to implement a new ministry. It’s called “Family Promise,” and it aims to help a certain, very vulnerable segment of the homeless population. See the number of homeless families is ever increasing. We’ve pulled out of a pretty dire recession, but a lot of folks lost their jobs and ended up losing their homes as well. Many of these people were families with kids.

Much of the homeless shelter infrastructure isn’t exactly set up for families. You have men’s shelters, and women’s shelters and such but many of these places offer limited space and are tough for families to remain together in. Also, many of our regular institutions unfortunately end up being hot spots for crime and drug activity. Despite the best intentions of many who serve, this just happens. Since this is the case, there aren’t often a lot of places on the streets that are safe for children.

Family Promise seeks to step in and provide help for folks who are in just that situation. Basically it works like this: several churches in a community step up and decide that they want to take on this project and serve as “host congregations” for homeless families. On Sunday evening the families arrive at the host church, where volunteers set up sleeping accommodations, prepare a meal, and spend time eating and engaging with them. This includes games, movies, music, or maybe even just sitting back, having a cup of coffee and talking. There are activities for kids as well. The families then spend the night in the church every night for one week. They get up, are provided breakfast, and then taken to a day center. There the kids are sent to school and the parents go to work if they have jobs. If they don’t, then a case manager works with them to try to find a job or find a better job that will help them support their family in their next home.

The families return to the host church each night where volunteers again prepare food for them and spend time with them. Saturdays are kind of a free day for the families to spend together at the day center or go out and just do normal things. Come Sunday morning the families are then taken to the day center again, followed by going on to the next church that evening. The more churches there are that help out, the longer Family Promise can sustain these families and help them out. The purpose is to give them a safe place while simultaneously working with the parents to better their situations.

This ministry is to create a safe place for families, so certain conditions must be met. The applicants are screened both by community organizations like YCC and Family Promise itself for histories of criminal activity, domestic violence, drug use, and such. Not to say that people who might be screened out don’t need help, but you can’t have a known drug user in with families with kids.

The Ogden ministry has been very fortunate so far. They’ve raised over $60,000 dollars so far through private and corporate donations. Ogden City has stepped huge as well, donating an unused fire station for the day center and not even charging Family Promise rent for two years! The bed race, pictured above, brought in more than $6,000 dollars in one day last month! They hope to begin sheltering families fairly quickly after the new year!

As I mentioned, Ogden City has really stepped up and they deserve major props. Many local governments don’t often care all that much about the issues of people who can’t afford to give money to reelection campaigns. There are also 7 local churches who have stepped or who are getting ready to step up and help host families.

Ascension Lutheran Church
Trinity Presbyterian Church
Community United Methodist Church
Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
Genesis Project
Seventh Day Adventist Church
Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden (pending.)

Other churches that don’t have a facility to use but will be providing aid and volunteers are:

Alpine Church
United Church of Christ
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

As you can see, this effort reaches across denominational and ideological lines to help people in need. I’m really stoked about that aspect of it. Too often our churches forget how many people we can help if we could just get together on the promise that Christ’s love is for everyone.

I’m not any kind of a spokesperson or anything for Family Promise. Our church has been very involved with this, so we’ve gotten regular updates. I’m just passing those along. Their national website says 74% of applicants end up in housing. Our briefing on it today at church suggested that the Salt Lake chapter has an even more remarkable record at 94%! How awesome is that!

If you’d like more information about Family Promise of Ogden, or if you might like to donate or get involved, you can hit up their website at www.fpofogden.org. The website for the national organization is familypromise.org.

Please keep the folks who are organizing this in your prayers, as well as the families that need help and will be participating. A little good love and unity can go a long way. With uncertain times out there right now, we need to be reminded that there are still a lot of good people in the world from many different backgrounds.