This October, Family Promise, a community response to family homelessness, celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. The vision of one woman from New Jersey, Karen Olsen, evolved into 182 interfaith hospitality networks across the country, including 4 in Massachusetts, who since 1988, have helped more than 500,000 people-men, women and children-with housing, case management and other services to regain their self-sufficiency.
Started as a local effort to address the crisis of family homelessness, Family Promise works on the principle that the elements to help children and their families-who make up 40% of all people who are homeless-are already in the community. The program brings together houses of worship to provide temporary homes, facilities to provide space during the day for case management, and most importantly, thousands of volunteers who, by sharing a few hours of their time, enable families to turn their lives around.
Also in October, Family Promise Metrowest celebrated its fifth anniversary of serving families in our Metrowest suburbs. With seeds planted by the Wellesley Congregational Church, Family Promise grew to 21 member congregations at the time of its opening and 40 today: churches, synagogues, and mosques. Volunteers, now numbering close to 2000, come from throughout the area including businesses, civic organizations, and colleges. Family Promise has served 70 families with 120 children. It is the first resource in Metrowest to which agencies turn to house families who do not qualify for state shelter. Because of the extent of in-kind contributions, Family Promise is able to help families at a far lower cost than traditional shelter-while at the same time building community between its volunteers and the families served in the program.
When it opened in 2008, Family Promise Metrowest, joined other Massachusetts affiliates, the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Worcester and the Montachusett Interfaith Hospitality Network and helped to launch Family Promise North Shore Boston which recently opened its doors. To learn more about joining Family Promise, visit their website.
by Judy Mongiardo, Network Coordinator, Family Promise Metrowest and member, Task Team to End Homelessness
email@example.com ~ 508-318-4820
Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
My Story, by Tina (download pdf version here)
As Christmas fast approaches, there are homeless youth in our state facing the holiday without a place to call home. Although each of their stories are different, these youth have one common thread, that is not one of them would ever have imagined they would be homeless this Christmas.
My name is Tina. I know firsthand how it feels to be homeless for the holidays. At age 13, by no mistake of my own, my life changed forever. Growing up in a home where both my parents battled with addiction, my father died of an overdose and shortly after, my mother was sent to prison. From that moment on I became a homeless unaccompanied youth.
At first I was shuffled from family member to family member, sleeping on their couches – never being able to stay too long at any one of their homes. I didn't have much of a choice but to grow up fast as a child. The influence of drugs, alcohol abuse and mental instability can put a toll on anyone, especially someone who has found themselves constantly fighting a fight against the world. I learned to survive very quickly. With no parent or formal guardian and with no real home life, I miraculously finished high school magna cum laude. School became the one place I found refuge from the chaos of my life.
In the late summer after graduating from high school, I moved to Massachusetts to attend Salem State University. During the school year I lived in student housing, but come summer break I was once again facing homelessness. Desperate to succeed, I had to learn the ins and outs of Massachusetts and the different programs that might be able to help me. With little success I discovered that there were not many homelessness programs geared for homeless youth – or at least not any places for drug free and hard working homeless students. I reached out to agencies searching for solutions and plausible options and there weren't many. They all seemed to lead to a solution no one wants to accept: A homeless shelter. It was scary to even think that my independence only led me to a shelter.
Gratefully since moving to Massachusetts, I began building a relationship with my parent’s family. Luckily, I had the opportunity to move in with my 90 year old grandfather. I am one of the fortunate ones but sadly approximately 6,000 young adults in Massachusetts* don’t have a place to go to other than the streets. Far too many young adults are sleeping in alleys and abandoned buildings. Some are forced into the sex trade just to get off the streets, or engage in survival sex; even more turn to alcohol and drugs to dull the pain.
I can only speak for myself, as I have overcome homelessness and adversity. But I'm sure there are many who cry themselves to sleep longing for a way out of their nightmare. That is why I have joined the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless in their fight to end youth homelessness through the passage of House Bill 135: “An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth”. To learn more about this bill, please click here. The passage of this important legislation would make it possible for thousands of youth faced with nowhere to go to have a place to turn. The bill would make it possible for the creation of supportive housing and case management for at risk or homeless youth throughout out the state.
In the time that it took you to read this letter, you can make an impact by the simple act of clicking on this link - www.mahomeless.org - that will bring you to the Coalition’s website where you can take action by filling out an online letter to your State Senator and Representative.
Your legislative representatives at the State House need to hear from you that you support “An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth”, House Bill 135. The passage of this bill will ensure that by next Christmas there will be hope for at-risk and homeless youth in Massachusetts.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and more importantly taking action. If you are interested in learning more about becoming involved in the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Campaign and in advocating for young people experiencing homelessness, please get in touch with Exa, the Community Organizer/Legislative Advocacy at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*According to the Department of Secondary Education of Massachusetts
The mission of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless is to eradicate homelessness from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Our work as a coalition to find common ground and to seek essential solutions has enabled us to fulfill our role as an organizer, coordinator and resource. At the same time, our organizational philosophy has compelled us to take action, rather than merely observe, react, or study. We seek to fulfill our mission as a voice with people experiencing homelessness in their struggle for decent housing, adequate income and accessible services. To learn more please visit our website at www.mahomeless.org.
Community Organizer/Legislative Advocate
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
Endorsed by the Homelessness Ministry Team and the Justice and Witness Council of the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
Are you someone who loves gadgets? Do you like making videos, running slideshows, fine-tuning microphones? Then the Massachusetts Conference needs you!
Local church leaders across the Conference have been asking us to increase our use of technology. They want recordings – or maybe live streaming – of workshops, seminars, Super Saturdays and Annual Meetings. They want webinars for when they can’t attend events and they want well done and well run media presentations when they can.
The Conference has now made an initial investment in equipment to move us forward in taking on this challenge. But what we need is the talent and the time of those in the pews who know how to use it. We need an MACUCC AV Team.
If this is of interest to you or someone in your church – would you please contact me? I won’t ask you to come to monthly meetings or to make a long-term commitment. But I might ask you to record a seminar. Or conduct some one-on-one interviews. Or run a slideshow or recording at a gathering. No matter what your particular interst or skills, I will definitely ask you to help me build a team that will use technology to strengthen connections across the Conference for everyone, even when we can’t be together in one place.
Please, send information about yourself – or someone else who would be good on this team – to me at email@example.com Thanks!
This week Andover Newton Theological School held a conference with a panel of pastors who had been through the trauma of disaster, both human caused and natural. It reinforced the need for our Conferences and churches to be prepared to respond to the needs of the community and congregation when disaster strikes. That point has been brought home as we have seen the images from the outbreak of tornadoes this past weekend in the Midwest as well as the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
The work of the Disaster Resource Team is to prepare our churches, specialized ministries, pastors and communities to respond with resilience when disasters come.
At our last gathering of the Disaster Resource Team we began to develop some goals and strategies for the coming year. I have listed those thoughts below. Based on the responses to our doodle poll our next meeting of everyone interested in the work of Disaster Resource Ministries is invited to come to Framingham on Thursday, January 9, from 5-8 p.m.
Our meeting for the evening will include:
• Reviewing changes to the conference disaster response protocol
• Reviewing the goals and assigning tasks and strategies.
Here are our goals:
1. To develop stronger and more urgent resources and education for churches based on the insights that a) churches are a crucial sacred space that anchors and stabilizes the community in the midst of a disaster, b) the changing landscape of ministry means many churches may cease to exist or lack the resources to be that spiritual grounding and may not even be aware of the importance of their role and c) disasters are going to happen with increased frequency and intensity and we are not prepared or aware for that.
2. Continue to tighten and fine tune our Conference disaster response protocol. We keep getting new insights, experiences and ideas around this. Yesterday’s workshop at ANTS has already added another step
3. Develop a step by step manual to guide pastors when their church/community is struck by a disaster (or to guide conference staff and representatives to coach the local pastor). This will also include support to our specialized ministries
4. Continue to research and develop disaster related resources for distribution to churches and ministries and for posting on our website around all aspects of disaster ministry
5. Explore and develop partnerships and relationships with government, nonprofit and faith based disaster response organizations so that we can respond to disasters more collaboratively and fluidly (Mass VOAD – Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disasters is meant to be the group that facilitates this) (This will also include professional chaplaincy organizations)
6. Develop the resources within our MACUCC churches and specialized ministries so they can more quickly and fluidly assist each other in times of disaster
Here are some suggested strategies:
• Developing a checklist for churches and specialized ministries to have in preparation for impending disasters
• Developing guidelines and checklists for follow up with clergy in churches and specialized ministries within the impacted areas.
• Updating the MACUCC Disaster Resource webpages with links and resources (including Light Our Way for liturgies and spiritual care guidance in the aftermath of disasters)
• Developing emails/blogs that can be sent out each season with suggestions and guidance for seasonally predictable disasters (Winter – Blizzards, Spring - floods and tornadoes, Summer – Hurricane, Fall – Miscellaneous)
• Create a checklist of likely disaster response needs in the short term and long term following disasters and the agencies/faith communities/non-profits who are typically able to provide for those needs (eg Southern Baptist chainsaw teams)
• Explore bringing a CISM basic course to the MACUCC for clergy (and laity)
• Developing a list of MACUCC churches (and church members) who could respond immediately to needs with things like food, power generators, necessities, etc
• Develop a list of chaplains (particularly those serving in hospital settings and those with trauma remediation training) who can be called upon to assist in times of disaster
• Consider the development of webinars for disaster preparations for churches and individuals.
We hope you can join us. Please RSVP to Karen Methot at firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate if you can come.
For the Disaster Resource Team
Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ