The Galligan Realty Group is a huge supporter of community based non-profits and is always looking for a way to give back to the community we serve. Recently I became aware of Family Promise of Monroe County through a client who needed furniture removed in preparation for the sale of her home. Rather than sending the furniture to a landfill, she wanted to find a place where it could be useful in some capacity to someone in need. I received a phone call from this very client telling me about the wonderful experience she had with Family Promise and wanted me to know this non-profit was right in our backyard. So, I reached out and here’s what I learned….
Family Promise of Monroe County provides shelter and basic needs to low-income homeless and at risk families with children.
In addition to shelter, meals and support services, Family Promise offers housing assistance to qualified families with children, providing a safety net for families that work but have seen a change in employment, decrease in hours working, a medical event or unforeseen transportation repair, impacting their income stream. In 2017, Family Promise assisted 71 families with shelter and housing assistance, consisting of 286 individuals, 64% were under the age of 17. In addition, Family Promise provided 1,692 meals and 2,489 nights of shelter last year.
Since 2008, Family Promise has transitioned over 96% of their families to independence and, on average, have done so in less than 70 days. Families leaving shelter continue receiving case management for one year. As a result, 96% of families remain in independent living one year after leaving. While in shelter, families are required to complete a financial literacy course, so they may remain independent upon leaving the program.
Compelled to learn more about the program and how we could get involved Enid Logan, the foundation’s Executive Director invited me to join her on site at their day center to chat in person along with a member of the board, Adam Blistein. As I arrived to the day center I bumped into a very excited little girl who couldn’t have been more than 3 years old. She was all smiles, watching Tangled and chatting with other people in the center. A stunning creature with pale skin and chestnut hair, full cheeks flushed in a healthy pink and a perfectly pink pout. Being a kid person I said hello and commented on her movie choice (extra points for knowing the movie title!) we had a brief chat and I was ushered into Enid’s office. We made ourselves comfortable and I took stock of my surroundings. The space looked like one might expect a non-profit director’s office to look, lots of paperwork, boxes….chaos…. you know, the usual!
I sat while Enid and Adam spoke, being mindful not to let my mind wonder (as it likes to do). Both Enid and Adam had a very business like approach to our conversation as they touched upon the programs they have, when the board meets, who they help and why. What I noticed was each of them are fully committed to the people in which they serve. This is not business as usual. Adam had stopped by after a full day at the bank at which he serves as a branch manager and Enid had spent her day drafting grant proposals hoping to get funding to keep her families afloat. This is personal, it is something they are both passionate about and are eager to get the word out to the community with the hopes that, with awareness brings involvement and with involvement brings funding. The local stats were shocking to me, maybe I am naive but we don’t have a homelessness issue here in the beautiful Pocono Mountains? That’s when Enid laid it on me:
More than 14% of the population of Monroe County lives below the poverty level and more than 40% of the homeless population in Monroe County consists of families with children (2010 US Census).
I was floored! Being a New Yorker, we see homelessness at every corner, in every subway. There is no escaping their ever-present need for services. Here in the Pocono’s we don’t see people everywhere who clearly need help. My time here had softened me, I became unaware of the needs of the people around me and let myself get comfortable in my very safe middle class world where bellies are full, beds are soft and homes are full of love and warmth. I will admit, I felt a bit ashamed. How could I lose touch with reality? Then it hit me, it’s simply easier. It’s easy to go about our everyday lives checking items off our to-do lists. Setting the DVR to record our favorite shows, check. Get dinner together, check. Homework done, check. Make room for family time, check (not in that exact order!). My to-do list never has a line item for, pay attention to humanity and the needs of my community or the world at large. I had lost touch with what was real because I got comfortable in suburbia. I continued to ask questions and answered some questions about myself.
Adam organizes and teaches a class helping families learn how to handle money so they are less likely to end up back in their center. He teaches them how to budget and balance their account when paying bills. As he explains his role, I can hear the excitement in his voice. His sense of accomplishment and joy in helping those in need seems to agree with him.
Enid has her hands full as do most in her position. Trying to bring on new board members who share her/their enthusiasm and wanting to get the word out there. We chatted a bit about where she feels they are lacking, where she would like to take things and their mission statement. Funding is her cornerstone. They are in desperate need of funding to keep the families they currently support sheltered and fed as well as bring on new families in need. Their organization is unique in that they have to go through a qualification phase and safety is a main concern. They are a niche group who only cater to those in need with minor children so no single men or women and they can’t take in woman fleeing domestic violence situations due to the security risk. Once qualified, they are assigned a case worker who stays with them on their journey up to a year post shelter. The mission is to get them into stable housing, gainfully employed and keep them that way. On occasion FP will help if a family is short on money and needs to pay for heat or is short on their rent. They are a tremendous resource to families who may not qualify for assistance or who are doing everything they can NOT to end up in the system.
I was a bit overwhelmed but maintained my focus. Enid and Adam were both very engaging. As we wrapped our meeting I asked a few questions about the Board and staff. I asked whose daughter I had met on my way in. Enid locked eyes with me and quietly responded ” she is the child of one of our families”. Homeless? I said with what I can only imagine was shock written across my face. I was certain I just met a staff members little one. It took me a moment to process the idea that this stunning, happy, giddy little girl is homeless. For me, the face of homelessness embarrassingly, is old, beaten down by weather, hunger etc.
I had to take a breath, I could feel my eyes swell with tears. Again, in the matter of a half hour I had been rocked by what should have been an obvious truth.
As I drove home that evening in my comfortable SUV towards by beautiful home for a warm family dinner all I saw was that little girls face. Needless to say, I went to bed thankful that night. Thankful for my home, my support system and for people like Enid and Adam.
The face of homelessness is not only what we see on our city streets, it’s not only what we see depicted on tv, it’s also that stunning, happy little girl. That beautiful happy face belongs to a homeless girl. That girl could be mine, her mother’s story could be my own.
We all have something to contribute be it money, time, furniture. What’s important to remember is, don’t get so comfortable. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. One bad moment can send us tail spinning into homelessness and into the arms of Family Promise. I have added that little girl to my nightly prayers but even better, I have joined the board and hope to help get the word out. Facing the suffering of those around us isn’t easy. For me, doing nothing would have been harder.
If donating time isn’t your thing or you just don’t have time to spare, that’s ok. You can support Family Promises by attending their fund raising events!! (Or you could just send them a big fat check because, karma.)