- Shelter Program Update
Dear Supporters, Coordinators and Volunteers,
On behalf of the Board of Directors for Family Promise of Essex County (FPE), I am writing to announce an important change to our Emergency Shelter Program. Recently, our Board voted unanimously to transition from the rotational shelter that served our families so well for 32 years to a scattered site shelter. This change means that our emergency shelter for families will now be hosted in four single-family apartments or homes.
This decision was not made lightly. Over the last year, the Board and staff of FPE, alongside congregational coordinators, deliberated the pros and cons of ending the rotational emergency shelter program. We convened the FPE Shelter Task Force, composed of three staff, three board members, one pastor and six host site coordinators. They met several times over the past few months to discuss whether entering back into the rotational model would ever be safe and viable for the long term.
Meanwhile, other Family Promise Executive Directors, with the assistance of Family Promise National, have been exploring the value and long-term stability of alternative shelter models. Our Affiliate will join dozens of others across the country that have made, or are making, the switch to scattered or static site shelter. With scattered site units, FPE can start with one apartment or single-family home and scale up one unit at a time. The Scattered Site model of shelter provides a realistic interim step and will give FPE time to evaluate the feasibility of securing a permanent static site facility in the future. In October, we will begin a search for properties and landlords that would like to partner with Family Promise. If you or your congregation has a property that might be suitable, please let us know.
While this shift is certainly bittersweet, we want to stress that a scattered site shelter will provide stability for our guests and opportunities for our volunteers. We will maintain some of the volunteer roles you have come to love, but plan to expand those opportunities. For instance, we will still be providing meals for families in shelter. We would also like to use the space and facilities available at our Resource Center in Montclair to host skills or creativity workshops led by volunteers that are open not only to our shelter guests but to families enrolled in our other programs. We firmly believe that a scattered site shelter will allow FPE to continue to grow, serve more families, and engage volunteers even more meaningfully. It will reduce our participants’ emotional stress and fatigue related to the constant motion of the rotational model.
We also want to highlight two new programs that are expanding our reach. A recent addition is the Hand Up (Homeless Prevention) program. In addition to maintaining what has made Family Promise so special for the last thirty-two years, we are now able to engage with families before they require shelter to prevent an episode of homelessness. We are also planning to join forces with Circles USA to create a more robust stabilization program for previously homeless families that want to make the journey out of poverty. These programs have already enabled us to receive substantial grants which will provide rental assistance, case management, financial support, and additional staffing to meet our community’s needs at this most critical time. We look forward to sharing these families’ stories of challenge and triumph with you soon.
We understand that this change in our shelter model may bring up feelings of sadness, but please keep in mind that the community that makes Family Promise so special will remain. As we pursue this transition, we look forward to welcoming you at our Resource Center at 46 Park Street in Montclair as we gradually bring back volunteer opportunities in the coming months.
If you have any questions about this change and about what the future holds for our affiliate, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of the Board Members, as well as to our staff. We look forward to having you along for the next chapter of our journey!
- A Time for Healing: Shakira’s StoryThis year, Family Promise of Essex County has seen an increase in the number of families seeking support due to high unemployment and child care loss. Shakira was one of those families. This is Shakira’s story…“Living without my children for one month was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I have never been away from my kids for more than two days.”Shakira was pregnant with twins when rats in her apartment made it uninhabitable. She and her two children, ages nine and four, were forced to leave immediately. She moved in with her sister and three nieces, but with too many people in the apartment, it was a violation of the lease and landlord evicted her. Around the same time, Shakira suffered a devastating loss when one of her twin babies didn’t survive child birth. Shakira now found herself in a traumatic and impossible situation- with no school or child care due to Covid-19 restrictions, Shakira had no choice but to send her three kids, including her baby, to live with her mom in South Carolina. During this time, she worked 3 jobs and 16+ hour days, determined to raise the funds necessary to get her and her children a place to call home.When Shakira called Family Promise of Essex County seeking support, Belinda answered the phone. Shakira remembers, “Belinda was easy to talk to, caring and so helpful. Just like talking to a friend”. Belinda checked in with Shakira regularly and coincidentally called at the same moment Shakira was viewing a new 2 bedroom apartment. Shakira determined that she could make this apartment work with her budget. She just need assistance from FPE with security deposit and necessities to set it up as a home.Shakira suffered a lot of loss in 2020 and through all her hardships, she didn’t have a chance to grieve and heal. Now with a new, clean home, Shakira is looking forward to healing in 2021. “I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate finding this caring and warm program. FPE helped me get set up in my new apartment with financial assistance, new furniture, toys for kids, and food gift cards.”One thing her kids are most excited for in their new home; now Shakira’s nine year old daughter with have her own room and a place to invite friends over to play!
- Shareen’s Story
When Shareen came to Family Promise of Essex County this August, she and her children, Turrell and Virginia, were in need of stable housing that they could call home. Like so many families, their lives were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Shareen lost income and was evicted after her work hours were cut, and she couldn’t afford housing or life necessities on her own. In September, she and her children entered the FPE Shelter Program, through which they were housed in a hotel and given food gift cards, while the FPE staff provided counseling and support. We are happy to say that Shareen received the support she needed and is moving into her own fully furnished apartment. She will finally have a place to call home just in time for the holidays! Shareen feels that “God was leading me to this organization. I don’t know where me and my children would be without it.” Shareen expressed, “This is the best Christmas gift that I could give to my kids, is this home. I feel so blessed by this organization.”
- Families Making Progress: Marlesha’s Story
Marlesha Ross was working part-time at FedEx and living in Newark with her three-year-old daughter. When FedEx cut her hours, she found herself experiencing homelessness. She and her daughter bounced from shelter to shelter for months. Marlesha felt uncomfortable having her daughter stay at any of them. Then Marlesha found FPE.
FPE provided Marlesha and her daughter with emergency shelter, while also working with her to find an apartment that she could afford. Unfortunately, with a job that was cutting hours and not paying enough to cover the bills, that was a difficult task.
While in FPE’s shelter program, Marlesha’s daughter turned four years old – but a birthday party was not in the budget. FPE coordinated with St. Philomena’s Church in Livingston to fulfill the little girl’s wish – a Little Mermaid party. She was thrilled – the excitement on her face showed it all!
Just when Marlesha thought that finding more stable employment and housing wasn’t in her future, a new path opened up in front of her. FPE volunteer and Beth El Congregation member, Debra Horowitz, informed her that Audible, an Amazon company, was hiring in Newark and guided Marlesha to apply. After a series of interviews, Marlesha got the job! They offered her full-time employment, an increase in pay, and benefits that made her life much more manageable. For the first time in a quite a while, Marlesha felt excited about her future.
FPE was then able to find Marlesha and her daughter an apartment. They finally had a stable place to call home. “Every time I turn the key in that door, I feel a rush of relief,” Marlesha said with a sigh.
Marlesha credits Debra for showing up just when she was losing hope. Marlesha told us, “It speaks to the type of volunteers at FPE.” FPE and its volunteers are dedicated to supporting families during a time of crisis.
Marlesha has been winning awards for her hard work. She is now able to afford more pleasures in life, such as calling an Uber when it is raining, enrolling her daughter in a gym class, and even being able to buy something at the grocery store that is not on sale.
We wish you much success and happiness, Marlesha!
FPE extends a huge thank you to Debra Horowitz and to our many donors and volunteers who make it possible for families to change the future for their children.
Family Promise Success Stories Archive
Does your family need assistance?
- Does your family need shelter?
- Are you looking for prevention or stabilization services?
- Do your children need an after school program?