“[Family Promise] is a way to expand our community’s ministry to homeless families,” said Derrick Gordy, a deacon at Cartersville First Baptist Church and co-chairman of the Family Promise of Bartow County steering committee along with Pat Eberlein. “The national organization has a lot of the groundwork and the procedures laid out to make it easier on the local folks to get things up and rolling.
“The purpose is to [help] families that are in need of housing in the local community. ... Then you take advantage of the fact that there’s local churches with buildings and congregations that are willing to help host the families, feed them during a given week, give them a place to sleep, a safe place to stay. ... It’s exciting to me as a church member in a local congregation to see that our church building can be used for something that so directly helps somebody.
“A lot of times, we have worship service with the congregation and do things but it’s exciting to know that you’ll give kids a bed to sleep in and a roof over their heads and that’s just so direct and seems so true to what Jesus teaches us. I’ve got elementary age kids and it’s a pretty often bedtime prayer that we thank God for a roof over our heads and beds to sleep in. It’s pretty cool to me to think about
providing that for some other kids also. So I think it’s an awesome opportunity
Along with Cartersville First Baptist, four other churches — First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville, Faith United Methodist, Pine Log United Methodist and The Bridge United Methodist — will serve as host churches, with the Church of the Ascension providing support. Before Family Promise can be established locally, a total of 13 churches need to sign up as host sites and a building must be secured for the offering’s Day Center.
Once 13 churches are involved, families needing assistance will rotate between venues. Each church will serve as a lodging site for one week per quarter. While the lodging location will change, the Family Promise’s Day Center will be a permanent location, providing various services to participants ranging from preparing resumes to shower and laundry facilities. After sleeping and dining at the host church, individuals will arrive at the Day Center in the morning where children will be transported to school and adults will either leave for work or research job opportunities.
“We’ll have at least one full-time director, a paid director, that will be familiar with social services and counseling and do those kinds of things for the guests of the program because the program is very much a support out into full-time living,” Gordy said. “So we’ll help them find permanent housing and help them find jobs if they don’t have them. [This program is] meant to be temporary. I think the average stay is 62 days for folks finding permanent housing and really getting established in the community.”
For Ted Smith, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville, it is important to establish Family Promise of Bartow County because various local organizations have voiced there is a need to assist homeless families.
“It’s particularly focused on families because that is a definite need in the community because it’s been identified really through organizations like the Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter, who is very much behind this,” Smith said. “They make 70 or 80 referrals a month at the homeless shelter here and the greatest majority of those are families with children. There’s just not adequate facilities to care for families with children. So there’s folks out there that need a place.
“... One of the philosophies of Family Promise is to [partner] with other social service agencies to help those families get what they need. So we’ll be working with any and all agencies that could be a resource for these families as they get back on their feet. There’s 181 affiliates right now in the country of Family Promise, and they have a track record of having about 80 percent of the families they serve getting into long-term stable housing. So it’s been a very successful program.”
To learn more about becoming a host or supporting site, church representatives are encouraged to attend a Family Promise meeting Oct. 17, 6:30 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville. For more information, visit Family Promise of Bartow County’s Facebook page or www.familypromise.org and click Interfaith Hospitality Network.