A HAND UP When You Least Expect It

Submitted by: Family Promise of Brevard

Michelle had it all planned. Previously a stay-at-home mom, she opened a consignment shop and saved money for three years preparing to leave an increasingly abusive marriage. Unfortunately, that day came all too soon: Michelle’s husband abruptly turned her, their seven children, and the family dog out of their home one night. She would soon discover he’d also depleted her savings account. With only 33 cents in her purse, Michelle and her children, ages 2 -13, spent the first few nights in her shop, motels, and with friends. When she found Family Promise of Brevard County, Florida, her priority was to find new housing. Eddie White of Family Promise of Brevard County knew immediately how Family Promise could help Michelle. “We knew income from her business would ultimately support her family,” he explains. “She was a perfect candidate for our HAND UP program.” As navigator of HAND UP, a housing assistance program made possible by Family Promise’s partnership with HUM I (Help Us Move In), a nonprofit that helps families facing housing crises, White helped Michelle find housing and receive one-time HUM I move-in funding. Days later, the family and their beloved dog were in their new home, a pet-friendly rental house in a safe neighborhood. The speed at which Michelle’s life was upended and subsequently righted still amazes her. “Most support services require so much before they’ll meet you -advance appointments, time-consuming paperwork. In an emergency, you don’t have the luxury of time,” Michelle says. “All of a sudden I had nothing, but Family Promise helped me right away.” Since first opening her consignment store, Michelle has had compassion for struggling families, offering goods from the shop to those who need help most. “I was always the one giving help. It was really humbling to see people coming together to help us when we needed it,” she says. A partnership with HUM I is just one of the national initiatives Family Promise has launched with leading nonprofits dedicated to helping families confronting housing crises. The HUM I partnership enabled Family Promise to give Michelle the “hand up” she needed to regain her independence. “Family Promise gave us so much,” says Michelle. “They really are like a family.”

Meet Janet and Jonathan

Submitted by: Family Promise of Brevard

When Jonathan’s parents divorced, he moved with his mother from the only home he’d known. Unsure what the future held, he felt the most important thing was that he and his mother Janet were together. But when Janet’s job was eliminated due to corporate downsizing and she struggled to find other work, there was more uncertainty, like where the next paycheck might come from and how bills would be paid. With no job prospects in sight, they were on the verge of homelessness, a concept that shocked Janet, who had been stably employed for nearly 25 years. Thanks to Family Promise of Brevard, Florida, their worries were short-lived. Family Promise worked with Janet to find employment. But just as important, they needed to help eight-year-old Jonathan adjust to the family’s new and complicated circumstances. Family Promise reached out to Jonathan’s new school, meeting with teachers and administrators to help them understand the family’s situation and smooth the transition on his first day. “Jonathan’s teacher wrote him a letter welcoming him to her class,” says Janet. “That was four years ago, but I still have that letter on our refrigerator.” In addition, Family Promise arranged for another boy in the program to walk with Jonathan to and from the school bus stop each day to make him more comfortable. Having a buddy eased the family’s nerves those first few days, and Jonathan, who’d always done well in school, continued to make honor roll. “I’d always thought of homeless shelters as intimidating places with beds and nothing more,” Janet says. “Family Promise wasn’t just a shelter. They had everything we could possibly need to help us get our life back together-help with jobs and housing, tutoring for Jonathan, school supplies. I never imagined we’d be in this situation, but Family Promise shattered my stereotype of how homelessness is treated.” The family is still involved with Family Promise, now as volunteers, and Janet was recently hired as the receptionist for one of the churches where she and Jonathan stayed during their time in Family Promise’s emergency shelter program. “As we learned, anyone could become homeless,” says Janet. “If it weren’t for Family Promise, I don’t know where we’d be right now.” Thanks to the dedication and generosity of our supporters, Janet and Jonathan and many other families have a place to call home.

Volunteers of America Success Stories

Submitted by: Angela Bozorth,
Community Specialist

Here at the Cocoa Office of Volunteers of America we strive to help less fortunate members of our community rebuild their lives every day in a multitude of ways with both our transitional housing program to assist homeless veterans and their families as well as the homeless community at large via the Challenge Grant. One of the success stories related to the Challenge Grant this past year involves the true spirit of team work through multiple members of the Brevard Homeless Coalition working together to see that homeless participants are successfully housed. Due to limited funding, few resources and exorbitant housing costs this has become an ideal solution to expedite chronic and high risk cases. One of our success stories at VOA started late in 2017 when 211 referred a family with a disabled father and a heavily pregnant mother due to give birth in 6 weeks. They also had two toddlers, age one and two, one most likely with special needs. They were all living in a tent in the woods and subsisting on the father’s SSI payments of barely $500 a month. By the first of the year, Angela Bozorth, Community Specialist funded under the Challenge Grant and Raylene Coe of Crosswinds worked together to complete VI-SPDATS and Full SPDATS, added them to CHAT Team and secured them a voucher with the Brevard Housing Authority. Between the two agencies who stepped up and then collaborated with Housing for Homeless who had a house for rent that was perfect for this large brood, by the end of March this was a family of five and by April this family was living in a nice 3 bedroom 1 ½ bath home with a yard, kitchen, even beds for each of the kids. Per Brevard Housing Authority requirements, Brevard Cares then stepped in to provide the monthly case management. Due to the family’s indigent status, their portion of the $1,200 monthly rent was $0. We were not able to house them overnight but it was a good feeling seeing a family go from living in a tent in the woods to a nice home in the suburbs and a chance at a better life for themselves and their children.