Dr. Markeita Hope was first introduced to Family Promise in March of 2022. She was telling her law school professor about the family of seven she was helping to house in her Atlanta home. Her professor responded with, “That sounds a lot like Family Promise.”
“Little did my professor know how much she changed my life with that little phrase,” Hope said.
Fast forward one year, and Hope is working with Sheila Fields to develop Nebraska’s first Family Promise Affiliate (Family Promise of the Great Plains). Fields, currently the executive director of the Bobby Byars Foundation (BBF), an organization that was founded to carry on the legacy of Fields’ father, first met Hope through a woman to whom Hope had provided housing and wrap around services in the 1990s. Like her father, Fields strongly believes that everyone deserves a chance to be empowered to thrive.
Fields explained that her past experience of homelessness drives her passion for Family Promise. The chance Fields was handed while navigating life as a single mom and full-time college student shaped her outlook on life.
“There was a period back then where I couch surfed,” Fields said. “I didn’t realize then that it was considered homelessness. Luckily, some people took me in and helped me navigate through college.”
But if it wasn’t for Hope, she would never have heard of Family Promise. “Had I not taken this person into my home in the 1990s, Sheila and I would’ve never met,” Hope said. “People come to us in a package. If you don’t understand that, you’ll miss what they have for you.”
Fields and Hope didn’t immediately begin developing Family Promise of the Great Plains. They worked together on a few other projects before Hope introduced Fields to Carolyn Gordon, Family Promise’s Director of Affiliate Expansion.
“When I first met Dr. Markeita and Sheila, I knew they got ‘It,’” Gordon said. “They understood the values of Family Promise and the niche we fill in communities. I respect their passion, their own lived experience, and the gifts they bring to best serve families with children. With these two at the helm and Bobby Byars Foundation’s support, I’m excited to see Family Promise of the Great Plains take off!”
Although there aren’t yet any official titles at Family Promise of the Great Plains, Fields is considered the organization’s founder while Hope is a co-chair. Regardless, the two complement each other well. Fields has a deep vision for program services and evolving the Affiliate into a stalwart of the Omaha community. She is focused on combatting growing housing insecurity—caused by the high cost of housing—with homelessness prevention programs.
“We’re asking ourselves: ‘how do we find indicators of homelessness that will help us prevent it in the first place?’” Fields said. “We want to make an impact where there are gaps in our current systems with nontraditional families, youth transitioning from foster care, and college students, for example.”
On the other hand, Hope lives and breathes the ethos of Family Promise. She mentioned the importance of “sacred space,” which is something that must be fostered for families as they navigate homelessness and the trauma associated with it. Hope explained that building sacred space is the foundation to providing genuine and long-lasting support for families. And what does sacred space look like?
“Sacred space is an awareness of security and significance, unconditional love to be and become,” Hope said.
Right now, Family Promise of the Great Plains is providing support for families in the form of workforce development, scholarships, and community building that will yield partnerships capable of supporting families as they move into new homes. And although it’s still early days for Family Promise of the Great Plains, Fields has high aspirations for the Affiliate.
“We want Family Promise of the Great Plains to be a household name in the community,” Fields said. “I would expect our logo to be in all the places where crisis services are provided so we can be a connector for homelessness prevention [in Omaha].”
Do you want to learn more about Affiliate Expansion and/or get involved with Family Promise of the Great Plains? Contact Carolyn Gordon.