Tara Pagliarini: “The Pandemic Has Helped Raise a Call to Action in Our Community”

October 26, 2020

As part of our ongoing conversation on homelessness, we asked members of the Family Promise network and individuals working to serve families experiencing homelessness to share their personal thoughts and reflections on Family Promise and the issue of family homelessness. These writers are true thought leaders, using their skills and expertise to develop and implement creative solutions that are changing the lives of parents and children in their communities. This interview is with Tara Pagliarini, Executive Director of Family Promise of Brevard, FL.

Tara Pagliarini on How COVID-19 Has Impacted Family Promise of Brevard

Photo of Tara Pagliarini.

Nationally, we are expecting to see an eviction crisis in the coming months. How do you anticipate this will impact your community? And how are you preparing?

Today, we wait for the eviction moratorium to lift, knowing that our agency referrals have already increased 450%, and that eviction orders are imminent. Thankfully, at the onset of the pandemic, we had an established prevention program to work closely with families and their landlords to mitigate the effects of loss of income, keeping families off of the eviction list through financial assistance short-term case management. Because HUMI (Help Us Move In) funds are one of our funding streams to assist families who are declined by county or municipality CARES funds, we are an integral piece of the puzzle. In fact, since March, we have expended $100,000 in community funds to keep families off of the eviction list. We are working closely with our COC (Continuum of Care), county, and municipalities on a weekly basis to review our process to ensure we are maximizing CARES funding and avoiding duplication of efforts.

What makes you most concerned right now?

There are currently 6,700 students unaccounted for in our school system. These are students who have not registered for online learning, hybrid, or in-person learning. I fear that this number includes a large portion of students in transition, whose parents are experiencing the technical divide that will substantially impact an already vulnerable situation.

What makes you most hopeful right now?

If there is any silver lining to be seen through COVID-19, it is that the pandemic has helped shed light on the challenges so many families face trying to achieve stability. In a time when so much around us feels uncertain and insecure, it is not lost on me that this how the families we serve feel each day as they experience the stress and trauma of food, financial, and housing insecurities. The pandemic has helped raise a call to action in our community as others have been touched by the instability of the situation.

What is one thing you wish more people knew about family homelessness in America and in your community?

Family homelessness is as pressing an issue as it has ever been. Not only is housing less affordable than it was 30 years ago, but the gap between skills and income has also grown, and opportunities to learn skills to close the gap are lacking. All this leaves our lower-income communities to fight a battle for social mobility that they have not been equipped to win.

What is your favorite part about working with Family Promise?

Being a witness to impacts like in this story below!

A note from a Family Promise of Brevard guest, reprinted with permission and edited for clarity:  

When I was young, at one time or another, for school, I was required to build a popsicle stick house. The first time I tried, I rushed because I thought it would be easy and didn’t listen or read the instructions. I built it by guessing and modeling it after the people around me. Because of that it ended up a mess! It leaned to the left and had a glue everywhere. Eventually it fell apart during the glueing process. I took the C+ I received from the project and moved on.

The next time I was assigned the same project I believed things would go more smoothly, because I realized where I made my mistakes the last time. So I laid out my tools to start on the frame. Somewhere along the line I started relapsing to the same way of thinking as the last time and bypassed the instructions. I found myself again relying on old habits and what people around me told me I should do, never once realizing their projects were in the same state as mine. Due to that, yet again, my project was not a success.

When I was asked again to do the same project, I knew that I could approach this two different ways. I could continue to repeat the same methods and actions that help me fail the last time or I could start brand new. I was a little hesitant because, after failing twice, I just assumed this project was not for me. I did everything I knew and none of it worked, but this time my entire GPA was riding on the grade from this project. So I adopted a whole new way of thinking. Instead of relying on the past, I’m creating a brand new project. This time I am listening to the directions and following the steps. I am taking the time to secure the foundation and the roof. I’m putting more effort and thought into it, and it shows. I finally created something way closer to the image I had in my head. It wasn’t perfect but it was progress! And sometimes that’s better than perfection because it means you’re not complacent and it motivates you to continue to strive.

Family Promise’s program was my popsicle house. It changed my view of the world. I had no specific instructions, I was going off of habit and survival. I wanted better but didn’t quite know how. Family Promise took the time to give me the guidance and instruction to make better choices. I saw how my better choices would influence my children to make better choices. It was like a boot camp on how to ADULT. You showed me I was not in a tunnel looking for a light, I just had my eyes closed and didn’t realize there was light all around me. All of you provided the support and the tools I needed to push through my circumstance and reestablish a new future.

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