At Family Promise, desperate times call for creative measures.
The COVID-19 crisis has been a proving ground for Family Promise Affiliates, volunteers, and partners across the country as service providers resort to unique and creative measures that ensure vulnerable families to continue to receive the support they need while working to regain independence.
During this crisis, we’re highlighting the unique ways Affiliates are serving families battling homelessness during this challenging time.
At a time when health risks are quite real and employment is hard to come by, Family Promise of the Mid-Willamette Valley is prioritizing housing as the key to opening to the door to more opportunities for families battling homelessness.
“Once a family is in their own place, family members can isolate and be healthy,” explains Executive Director T.J. Putman. “Employment is necessary, of course, but if you’re in your own home right now, you have a chance to stay healthy during this pandemic.”
The Affiliate’s Fresh Start rental program offers families help with security deposits and up to six months of rent. But Putman notes that like everyone else, landlords are in crisis, too.
“We’re working closely with landlords to figure out how to make things work,” he says. “Our families have an organization with 2,000 volunteers standing behind them, plus the security of being able to ensure rent for the next six months. Landlords certainly see the value in that.”
He says Family Promise has been moving families into homes faster than before the health pandemic hit the state. Within the first several weeks, they placed nearly 100 individuals in homes.
With such a focus on housing, the Affiliate has turned its day center into a static shelter site for three families (totaling 15 people). Putman acknowledges it’s a challenge to enforce physical distancing while under one roof, but the families have gotten creative – they eat meals in shifts, wear face masks in common areas, and do as much as possible to keep areas sanitized and safe. Volunteers provide meals, groceries, and supplies, as well as games for the children.
Although some parents in the program have lost employment, Putman says others have been hired at essential businesses that have remained open throughout the crisis. Like all Affiliates, Family Promise of the Mid-Willamette Valley has changed its operational model and holds few face-to-face meetings, instead empowering families with technology – tablets or cell phones – to facilitate remote case management.
Putman sums up this period, “As we go through this crisis, we have to adjust to the times. When families come to us, it’s one of the worst days of their lives. We’re doing as much as we can to provide a home-like environment.”