From Homeless to a Seat on the Board

June 2, 2015

Amanda Lane thought her sister-in-law’s offer to house her family when they relocated to Bristol, Virginia was too good to be true. Her sister-in-law said she would provide for her family until Amanda and her husband found jobs in the area.

Lane’s instincts were right. After relocating from an economically depressed area of the state, she discovered her sister-amandain-law’s house was in foreclosure. This left the Lanes—Amanda, husband, Teddy, and two sons, now ages 8 and 12, with few options. With a car that was constantly breaking down and only Amanda’s minimum wage job at a grocery store to support them, she knew that the family would end up homeless. “We saw it coming,” she said. “We couldn’t stop the downward spiral.”

So the Lanes rented a U-Haul and packed up their belongings to move to a storage unit. The family then checked into the least expensive motel they could find for two nights and began exploring options for homeless families. Lane found that all shelters separated families by gender, which she did not feel was an option. Her youngest son has Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, which causes intellectual disabilities, and Lane felt it would be too difficult for her husband to watch both boys all night. Additionally, the shelters didn’t offer a place for the family to stay during the day.

After two nights in the motel, they slept in the U-Haul. The next day, the family secured an appointment at Family Promise of Bristol. A few days later, they began with the program.

“We needed somewhere safe and secure while we picked ourselves off the floor,” said Lane. During the family’s stay, staff worked with the Lanes to get her youngest son the benefits he was entitled to, including a home health-care aide to care for him when Lane and her husband went to work. With childcare issues settled, Lane’s husband found a job, which he secured through a contact with a congregational volunteer. Next, the Affiliate assisted the family in the hunt for housing, even driving Lane to an apartment complex so she could talk to the property manager after phone calls were not returned. While that apartment did not work out, another one did, and the family graduated from Family Promise in June 2014.

Upon leaving, the Lanes continued to be supported by the congregational volunteers, who donated furniture, clothing and household goods when Lane discovered that most of the belongings they had stashed in the storage unit had been infested with black mold. One volunteer even drove Lane to a mattress store so she could pick out twin beds for her sons, which the volunteer then paid for. “I get choked up just remembering all everyone did for us,” said Lane.

Today, Lane is giving back by serving on the Family Promise of Bristol board. Her term began in January, and she hopes to work personally with the congregations and their volunteers.

“We are so proud of Amanda and her family!” said Lisa Cofer, a fellow Affiliate board member. “They worked so hard while in the program to lay the foundation they needed to be self-sufficient. Amanda has become such a huge advocate for our program, and I am proud to serve on the board with her.”

Dial 211 to find more resources near you.