There is no doubt that 2020 has been a unique year. As we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season, many of us will be reflecting on the things we are grateful for. There is a good chance that our list of gratitudes will be a little different this year.

I know my list will have some new items. For example, this year I am extra grateful for hugs. Or seeing a friend or loved one or even a colleague in person rather than on a video call. I am more grateful than ever for good health and when I pray for the health of those I love, it has a little more punch in the midst of a pandemic.

As you are making your list of things you are thankful for, I challenge you to add one more thing to it. And that is: The ability to sleep in your own bed.

Having a bed of your own is one of those things that is easy to take for granted.

Here is a sobering number.

In Comal County last school year, over 600 children were identified by the school district as being homeless or “home insecure.” This means that they do not have a stable, permanent home and, in most cases, they do not have a bed to call their own.

For many of us, the word "homeless" conjures up an image of a single adult sleeping under a bridge — desperate people living on the street. And while a few kids may find themselves in that scenario, the overwhelming number of children classified as homeless aren't living under bridges. Instead, their families are enduring periods of unstable housing. This looks different for every family but usually involves some version of moving from place to place, sleeping in motels, emergency shelters, cars, houses of relatives or friends, and so on.

Regardless of the details, experts agree that unstable housing often has serious consequences for kids.

"Homelessness is devastating to all aspects of child development," says Barbara Duffield, the executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that studies homelessness and education.

It is tempting to turn a blind eye and tell ourselves that homelessness is not a problem in New Braunfels.

The truth is, it is here. Especially as we realize the impact COVID has had and continues to have on our local economy. Many families in our community have lost income, jobs, and housing.

Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels works very hard with local families to address the challenges of homelessness in the following ways:

First, we have our prevention program. If we are able to connect with a family before they fall into homelessness we can often assist them and help keep them in their home. This has become especially important during COVID when our ability to shelter families has been significantly reduced.

Next, we continue to shelter families who qualify for our program. We help them meet goals so that when they move into their own affordable housing, they are able to sustain long term independence.

Finally, we support families as they learn to build savings, manage budgets, sustain employment and generally make life work. Our program is very successful helping families make amazing, transformational changes in their lives.

Our ultimate goal is for every kid in our area to have a bed that is their own. We want every child in our community to be able to say, “I am grateful to sleep in my own bed.”

As this tumultuous year comes to an end, there is a lot to be grateful for including your bed as you snuggle in each night. Consider offering a prayer and/or a donation for those who find themselves without a bed to call their own.

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  • Family Promise

In many parts of the world, a car is a luxury item. However, in our little corner of the world, it is extremely difficult for a family to manage life without a car.

In more metropolitan areas, of course, public transportation is available. But in New Braunfels, not so much. A single person who lives close to their work and the grocery store could probably manage on foot or with a bike. The needs of a family are many and a car is an important part of establishing sustained independence.

Often, obtaining a car is one of the more difficult obstacles for a family to overcome when lifting themselves out of crisis and homelessness.

In order to keep a decent job, get kids to and from school/daycare, do the grocery shopping, go to appointments, and all the other things that families do every day to keep the wheels turning on their lives - a car is essential.

Sometimes families come to us with a car. Sometimes they have a car but cannot afford repairs. When that is the case we can usually assist with repair costs or, at least, help them figure out how to get their car fixed.

Many times for a variety of reasons, families who are working toward graduation do not have a car or do not have hope of buying one. And, in order to graduate from the Family Promise program, a transportation plan is one of the goals that must be met.

One of the greatest ways to support Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels and one of the biggest gifts you could give a family is to donate a gently used vehicle.

The process is simple.

First, call us. We will have a brief conversation about your vehicle to determine if it would be a good fit for donation.

Then, once we decide to move forward, you take the vehicle to Christian Brothers Automotive for a free assessment.

They will thoroughly inspect the car and determine what the cost might be for updates or repairs. Christian Brothers will call FPGNB to give us the estimate (since we would cover the cost to get the vehicle in good working condition). We will determine if it is a vehicle we can accept. If it is, then you will transfer the title of the car to Family Promise and we will get you all the paperwork needed to be able to make a deduction on your taxes.

We will then match the vehicle to a worthy family.

As the year is coming to a close, consider donating a vehicle to Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels. This tax-deductible gift can have such a big and positive impact in the life of a family.

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Meet Jan Hutchings who is an Administrative Assistant with Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels. She also volunteers as an overnight person when her church hosts families.

Jan started with FPGNB as a volunteer in the summer of 2013 as they prepared for the opening - helping with painting and getting the old day center ready for guests. After the first guests were accepted into the program, she started volunteering as a receptionist, opening/closing the day center and answering phone calls, as well as volunteering with her church when they hosted. At the time, the only paid employee was Stacey Minor, the first Executive Director. Jan was hired in September of 2013 as the part-time Administrative Assistant and has been with FPGNB in this capacity since then.

Right before starting with Family Promise, Jan retired from teaching. It was not unusual for her to have children in her class who were experiencing homelessness (on average one child a year). These children might be living doubled up with extended family, rotating through different relatives’ and friends’ homes, coming in from the Crisis Center, sleeping on couches, or in a car. She saw the tremendous effect homelessness wreaks on children. Their attendance was frequently spotty and in class they had difficulty paying attention and completing assignments, tired from lack of sleep or distracted by problems that their families were coping with. Education simply could not have the same level of priority that children sleeping in a safe, secure, and stable environment enjoyed. Communities in Schools was a great resource for families, but it wasn’t enough. This close-up view of the difficulties of children experiencing homelessness made Jan know that she wanted to be a part of Family Promise when her church began discussing supporting this new nonprofit.

“I loved, and still love, that Family Promise is making a difference in children’s lives and is affecting generational change in the cycles of poverty and homelessness.”

Jan is very excited to see FPGNB expanding its efforts into programs geared toward the prevention of homelessness. The current Executive Director, Sarah, along with Family Services Coordinator, Jill, has continued the program’s shelter and graduate support components, and has implemented initiatives that assist families who are still housed but who are experiencing severe financial hardship and are at serious risk of becoming homeless. Experiencing homelessness is a traumatic event in a family’s journey. While Jan loves that they are able to help families overcome homelessness through the shelter program, she knows that preventing it from happening in the first place will allow FPGNB to have an even greater impact on the lives of families in our communities.

Thank you, Jan Hutchings, for your hard work, dedication, and many contributions (seen and unseen).

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Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels

PO Box 311866, New Braunfels, TX 78131

(830) 214-0024

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