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  • Family Promise

Have you given much thought to what causes homelessness? You may have some thoughts about how someone may end up homeless. Some people may assume that people who are homeless caused their problems through their own poor choices, perhaps including drug abuse, or an unwillingness to work. Many of us are unaware of our biases until we learn more, allowing us to shed old beliefs.


When people think of homelessness, they don't always think of families. But in reality, 35% of the total homeless population in the United States is comprised of families. Let’s take a look into how a family might find themselves experiencing homelessness. What happens to get them there?

There are three primary reasons families fall into homelessness: lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and poverty. Let’s look at each one.

Lack of affordable housing

Take a look at these grim numbers:

Many people coming into our program earn $10 per hour. A renter needs to earn $20.21 per hour to afford a two-bedroom rental in Comal County, if they work 40 hours per week. That’s an annual income of $42,040. Some can make it work on less than that, and a two-income minimum wage household may manage to just get by.

But what happens when there is only one income in the family? You can imagine how difficult it would be to earn enough money to afford or even find affordable housing.

Unemployment

Let’s consider childcare’s role as a barrier to employment. Many families do not have family members willing or able to fill the child care role while the parent works. Child care programs are expensive, averaging $800 to $1,000 per child per month. Child care assistance programs are not always available. Additionally, the child care assistance program requires the parent to be working in order to qualify; but in order to work, a parent must have reliable childcare; and so, the cycle goes. And last, but not least, child care is generally only available M-F from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, limiting what jobs a parent can accept.


Poverty

Nearly 41 million people (1 in 8) in the U.S. live below the poverty line. The poverty line for a family of four is $25,750. A worker needs to earn $12.38/hour just to reach the poverty level for a family of four.

Let’s say a family was able to reach the poverty level. They are still living on very little and most likely living paycheck to paycheck with no cushion in the case of an emergency. And, as most of us know, emergencies always happen.

Family Promise: our role in the community


FPGNB helps families identify barriers to housing stability, provides avenues to gain new life skills and works with families to build upon their existing strengths. In short, we seek to create solutions with our families.


We strongly believe that the key to serving people experiencing homelessness, and income insecure families, is through coordinated action. FPGNB is an integral part of community solutions that includes shelter prevention programs, shelter, and after shelter follow-up care. Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels is proud to see our community come together to make this a place we can all call home.



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  • Family Promise

The Day Center is really the cornerstone of the Family Promise Family. This is the welcoming space that calms the crisis. The day center becomes homebase for the families who come through our program. Just like any warm, inviting home, this is where our families start to feel safe again. Creating a space for people to feel safe is no small thing! Once families feel safe and secure, once they know where they will be sleeping and where the next meal is coming from, they can then start to think about the next steps toward establishing an independent and stable life. The way that plays out looks a little different for everyone. Regardless of the details, the day center is a constant.


It is rather unusual for an affiliate to have it’s own space so early after organizing. Most use borrowed or rented space from churches or other community partners. So we are very lucky at Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels to have a building of our own and one that was designed for our purposes. It has 3 showers, a washer and dryer, a kitchen, and work space for parents and kids to meet their goals. And there’s a play area for the little ones.


Although many different people rotate through, there is always a family feel here. Like family, not everyone always gets along all the time, that is true. For the most part, though, the families that are here at the same time form friendships and connections that last well beyond their time with us The day center is more welcoming than ever with a recent update thanks to a generous donation from IKEA. We are so grateful to have the spot to welcome our families. Thank you, Day Center!



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Many people may not realize the level of rigor it takes to go all the way through the program at Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels and actually become a graduate family.


Let’s walk through the process to see why this program is not for everyone.


First things first. We vet all of our families. We do not accept single people or couples without children. You must have children to be accepted.


We also do background checks and screen for drug use. We talk to the candidates to make sure they understand what we are about and what we expect. While we do offer shelter, our end goal is to “teach a man to fish” rather than just hand out fish all day.


Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day.

Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime

Our goal is for all of our families to reach sustained independence. However, most if not all of our families come to us experiencing some level of crisis. When a person is in crisis, all of that person’s mental energy goes toward survival. It is something we call “crisis brain.”

When a person has a “crisis brain” it is not possible for that brain to switch gears. It is essentially stuck in survival mode. So, the first part of our program is essential to the success of the rest of the program, although it does look a lot like we are giving handouts. There is a bigger picture. What we are really doing is helping these moms and dads switch their brains out of crisis mode so that they have the available mental energy to figure out life.

That is the next part of our program - figure out life.

We never tell anyone in our program what to do. Instead, we offer guidance. We help explain options. Often, we help put options in front of our families so that they can choose their way forward. We feel so strongly about holding a space for each person to make their own choice while offering support in managing the consequences of the choice.

Here is an example of what I mean.


Let’s say we have a single mom in our program who has always worked as a waitress. She comes to us with no job and two kids. Our first goal (after getting them stable and out of crisis brain) is to help her find work. She says she wants a job as a waitress because that is what she knows. `


We do not stand in her way, even though we have a feeling the income from her waitressing job is not going to be enough to cover her budget. She does have to have a job to stay in our program (it is one of our requirements).


So this mom takes a job waiting tables. It serves a purpose by allowing her to stay in our program and helps to get them a little savings. However, when we go to do her budget and look at the cost of living (apartment, groceries, bills), she realizes that she does not make enough money waiting tables to cover her expenses - even if she can find a reduced rent apartment, use food stamps for food, and keep her bills low.


It is so very important that she come to that conclusion on her own.


Now she has some choices. She can try to find different work. She can pursue some kind of training that would qualify her for a particular job. Or, if she is determined to keep waiting tables, she would have to figure out how to make her budget work (maybe changing the restaurant where she works to increase tips).


The point is, we never tell our families what to do. Instead, we offer support and guidance and help understanding finances and the bigger picture.


It takes a lot of commitment to become a graduate family. Many times these parents have to go way outside their comfort zone. It is hard. It can be uncomfortable. Sometimes they are learning things for the first time or facing deep embarrassment about their situation.


One recent and unofficial “test” of the resilience of our graduate families was the recent winter storm. It was tough. Would you believe that not one of our graduate families called us for help? They know they can. We were here ready to help. But they all managed with savings they had in place and the skills they needed to manage the crisis. We’d like to think that perhaps a few of those skills they picked up here.


Regardless, we are extremely proud of all of them and their hard work. We are also proud of our program that fosters such practical and sustainable independence.


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