Family Promise offers shelter, assistance and hope to homeless families

With an excited look in his eyes, Ted Taylor retrieves a small jewelry box from a desk drawer. Inside it, he reveals a sparking silver star affixed to a keychain. Inscribed across its surface is the word “family” in bold letters.

Family Promise

Family Promise graduate Rohanna and her two children ages 4 and 1, recently received a vehicle through the Recycled Rides car giveaway program. Through a community collaboration by Recycled Rides, Body Pros Collision, Dondrell Swanson of State Farm Insurance Agency, AZM Automotive, Gold Star Auto Glass and students at Hamilton High School, a maroon 4-door Toyota Sedan was presented to the deserving family. (Submitted photo)

Mr. Taylor is the executive director of Family Promise. Every time a family graduates from Family Promise, they receive the star at their graduating ceremony.

Upon receiving the token of achievement, he tells them, “On behalf of our family to yours, you will always be family to us. You are no longer welcome here as a client.”
As proof, he pulls up a video file of a family’s graduation from the homeless shelter.

In the video, a woman stands with tears running down her face and her children at her sides. She addresses the staff of Family Promise directly: “You don’t see us through the eyes of the worst things that have ever happened to us. You do not see us through the eyes of all the mistakes we have ever made.”

She says, “You showed me that homelessness has nothing to do with walls, a roof and a door. It has to do with family. And since we have walked through that gate, we have been your family, and you have been nothing less but my brother, Ted. I love you more than I will ever be able to express with words.”
Throughout her speech, the woman is clutching the silver star.

Family Promise of Greater Phoenix is an interfaith network shelter in Scottdale that helps families escape homelessness through various programs, attentive care and collaborations with hosting congregations.

According to the Arizona Department of Economic Security, 27 percent of homeless individuals in Arizona are families. Despite this obvious issue, family homelessness goes largely unnoticed in Arizona.

“Family homelessness is silent,” Mr. Taylor said. “They don’t hang out on street corners, they don’t beg for money. For the most part, they don’t want to be seen at all.”

According to Family Promise, 70 percent of families graduate from their program and maintain self-sufficiency within 37 days of entry. Family Promise also says its average cost of hosting a family is $4,000. The national average is $16,829.

As of September 2018, 777 families have graduated from the program, comprising 3,862 individuals. Of all these families, 92 percent have someone in their family currently employed. The shelter hopes the positive statistics continue to grow as they begin to expand throughout the Valley in the upcoming months.

On Oct. 24, the organization opened a new campus in Glendale that will begin serving families in early December 2018. Within the first quarter of 2019, Family Promise will also be expanding into east Mesa. Upon completion of their expansion project, Family Promise hopes to increase the number of homeless families they serve a year from 100 to 250.

Mr. Taylor says there are no plans to expand the Scottsdale facility at this time.

“We continue to watch the multi-family housing market in Scottsdale. However, the market is very hot and currently requires all funds be in-hand for immediate offering. Since funding is still pending, we have chosen to step back from offers until funds are available. We believe it is realistic to assume funding will be in place by the end of the year.

Family Promise

Tomascita walked through the doors of Family Promise in 2016 after years of struggling with addiction and unhealthy relationships. Thanks to Family Promise’s partnerships with local businesses, Tomascita secured employment and was presented with refurbished 2011 Ford Fusion during her graduation ceremony. At right is Ted Taylor, executive director of Family Promise. (Submitted photo)

Mr. Taylor family homelessness impacts children the most.

“Children come into Family Promise broken. When you insert fear into a child’s life, the fear of not knowing where they’re going to sleep, or if they’re going to get another meal, it changes a child,” Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor claims that within 10 days into the program, the children will begin to transform and, “turn into regular kids again.”

While they have communal housing that families may stay in on the Scottsdale campus, a large part of Family Promise’s success is due to its collaboration with hosting congregations.

Currently, there are 40 congregations across the Valley that host families overnight. For many families, this provides a solid source of food, shelter and guidance that they would otherwise go without.

Family Promise is the only interfaith shelter of the five homeless shelters in the Valley, meaning they welcome hosting congregations of all faiths and denominations. Although the congregations may be affiliated with a rigid set of beliefs, they are not allowed to proselytize, but only to provide for the families they host.

“The whole job of the congregation is to love them. They’ll know their names, they’re going to treat them like gold, they’ll have home-cooked meals every single night,” Mr. Taylor said.

Nancy Webb is a host coordinator for Family Promise at Scottsdale Nazarene. Her congregation has been hosting for eight years, and also lends part of their building to other groups who want to host but lack the facilities to do so.

“Family Promise is part of our mission program, and we look at it as an outreach to people who have hit hard times and need help,” Webb said. “We just feel blessed that we’re partnered with (Family Promise) and are able to do this.”

Family Promise has a variety of programs that allow families to reach self-sufficiency. This includes teaching families how to manage their finances and a 24-month graduate program. The program is run on a social media app and links to job openings, provides listings for healthcare and creates private groups to keep families in touch.

Services offered at the shelter extend beyond helping humans. On Oct. 1, 2012, Family Promise opened a pet sanctuary donated by PetSmart. The $54,000 project allows families to bring pets with them into Family Promise’s communal housing in order to avoid another loss for those who have already lost everything.

“When families become homeless, they lose just about everything. If they have a pet, and you take that pet away, that’s just a step too far,” Mr. Taylor said.

Homelessness is oftentimes contained in the confining visual of a dirty man holding a sign on the road median. Homeless families, however, often do not sleep on the streets, but switch between houses of family members and friends, never having a permanent home themselves. Once their resources run dry, some families stay in their car in dangerous Arizona temperatures.

This was true for Tina Morgando, who fled Colorado with her daughter in 2016 to escape her abusive ex-spouse. When their initial housing plans in Arizona didn’t work out, Ms. Morgando and her daughter were left homeless.

The two slept in their truck for a day and scraped together enough money for a night in a hotel. Luckily, Ms. Morgando soon received a call from Family Promise revealing they had shelter available for her family.

“It was a big relief because I know where we were going to stay that night,” Ms. Morgando said.

The two stayed at Family Promise for a month-and-half. The shelter allowed Ms. Morgando to save enough money to secure the apartment she lives in now, as she maintains a steady career at the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Family Promise

The Family Promise of Greater Phoenix Day Center in Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

Ms. Morgando denied having a graduation ceremony, as she and her daughter were purposefully maintaining a low profile to avoid alerting her abusive ex-spouse. Although she does not have a beloved silver star, there is one thing Ms. Morgando carries with her.

“My main take away from my time at Family Promise is that it’s OK to be homeless,” Ms. Morgando said. “Everything’s going to be OK, everyone has their struggles.”

Family Promise accepts volunteers, in-kind donations and encourages congregations to become hosts for families. According to Mr. Taylor, one of the greatest ways to help is to simply try to understand.

“These families are just like us, they’re not bad people,” Mr. Taylor said.

“Come and visit us, come and see who we are. When you walk into Family Promise, it’ll change you. We want everyone’s help, because we don’t want this to go on any further.”

Visit www.familypromiseaz.org.

Editor’s note: Nicole Ludden is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.

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