I’ve been sharing my family’s tough story about how we lost it all, how we found Family Promise, and what it was like being in the program. Now I get to share the most exciting part of the story. Spoiler alert:
It was hard, hard work. Believe me when I tell you, I spent all of my extra energy for months working toward this goal. My kids were so supportive and encouraging when they could tell I was getting tired. My caseworker and all the volunteers and the other families in the program helped me so much - more than I could ever say. It is because of all the support, help, encouragement, prayers, and gifts that we are making a fresh start.
I want to explain what we had to do and the goals we had to meet to become graduates of Family Promise.
First, we had to get all of our “paperwork” in order. That means I had to pay off overdue bills and get my current bills up to date. I also had to request new birth certificates and social security cards for me and my kids. Somehow in all the chaos of the past year, I lost the box that had all of our important documents. We have to get those in order as part of the program.
Next, I had to put together a budget that works for my family. A budget was hard for me. I had to go back and change it so many times until it was right, and the numbers worked. At first, I was not honest about our monthly expenses. My caseworker helped me to get real about what I actually spend every month. She also helped me to remember the things that I left off of the budget. I also had to start a savings account where I could save up at least a few months of expenses. This was an essential part of the plan so that we wouldn’t find ourselves in this situation again. I wish so much someone would have taught me this a long time ago!
Some of the other requirements that we had to meet before graduating included a full-time job (which Family Promise helped me find) and childcare for when school is not in session (which I was able to pay for again thanks to my new job).
The next thing on my list was a tough one. I had to find an affordable place to live. The waitlist is very long for all of the affordable housing in New Braunfels. I did get on a couple of waitlists just as soon as we got to Family Promise, but I didn’t have much hope. Most of the regular apartments are out of my price range. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. On the days I felt really down, it was usually because I could not imagine how this housing part would fall into place. One of the families that I became friends with didn’t graduate because they couldn’t find housing on their own. They did move in with one of their family members and are still doing well. Even though I know not every family graduates from Family Promise - some families just need a little bit of help and not the whole program - I was determined that graduating was something I wanted to accomplish. I knew that finding an affordable place to live would be the most challenging of all my goals.
The last major thing on my list was also a toughie. I had to secure reliable transportation. My kids thought that we could just ride in the Family Promise van forever! They had gotten so attached to the drivers who had been taking us around. The drivers are all so nice and had become like members of our family. While I loved our new friends, I was ready to have a car again, and I knew we needed one. I just didn’t know how. I spent many evenings searching online for a used car I could afford without much luck.
What I am going to tell you next is going to make me cry. Bear with me. Right out of the clear blue sky, two miracles occurred.
First, when I had pretty much decided it just wasn’t going to happen, I got a call that an apartment had come available that was in my budget. We were going to have a place of our own. And, I was actually going to graduate! When I hung up the phone, I bawled. It still makes me cry to tell it. I felt so many emotions. Happy, proud, scared, overjoyed, relieved, and also - surprisingly - I felt really, really sad. My time at Family Promise was coming to an end. I was both ready and terrified about our next steps. On one hand, we would deeply miss the loving community that kept us safe and supported during such a scary time. It was like an oasis in our time of need. On the other hand, I was ready for the independence I had been working toward.
The next thing that happened still just blows my mind. A few days before we planned to move into our apartment, an extremely kind family who we have never met, for reasons that I still do not understand, donated their car to us. We were GIVEN a beautiful, working car that we named “Faith” because that is what carried us through. We thank God every day and ask Him to bless the family who helped us with a car. My new goal is to be in a position someday to be able to pay it forward.
Getting settled into our new place has been fun. It is still pretty sparse, but we were able to get a few things at Habitat for Humanity with vouchers. My kids love their new room. Every little piece that we add to our new lives is so special to us now. We appreciate it so much more. At our graduation party, one of the host churches gave us this awesome basket full of things we need for the new place.
It is all coming together and starting to feel like our home.
Disclaimer: This story is based on the experiences of families experiencing homelessness both in our community and around the nation. The names used are fictitious but the circumstances faced are very real. We hope you will stay tuned for Part III next month to learn about a day in the life at Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels.