HELENA — Over the past year, more and more families that are at risk of homelessness in the Helena area are turning to Family Promise for help. Right now, they're trying out a pilot program aimed at assisting at-risk families before they become homeless.
The nonprofit, which helps homeless families and children with temporary shelter, food, and essential services, has been busier than usual since the start of the pandemic according to staff. In light of recent housing shortages, Family Promise has found itself in a short supply of volunteers and a surplus of those struggling to find a home.
“Probably since the pandemic we've had a great need for our services, we are an all-volunteer organization besides the two employees, we’re really counting on volunteers to come out and help us we won't be able to do our job without that,” said Randall Rake, board president of Family Promise.
Rake says the organization has received more phone calls from families needing help.
“Since COVID hit it has more than quadrupled, in one week span, I'll get at least 10 phone calls,” said Kimberly Woods, Family Promise family advocate.
Family Promise has helped 30 families since May and we are working with seven others now, on everything from mediation to finances and budgeting. This includes landlord mediation, financial literacy, childcare, employment training, and help to access rental assistance.
The nonprofit hired an assistant advocate in May to assist with casework and relations with partner agencies.
One of the program's participants, Leon Higginbotham, says this program gives him the opportunity to start fresh.
“It was like a God-send because I really didn't know what to do and I was just kind of like...I was trying to make many hard making choices and decisions that weren't working,” said Higginbotham.
One member of the prevention program, Ashley Moniz, says the organization helped make her new life possible. Family Promise gives guidance to participants on how to obtain certain necessities such as a driver's license, Social Security number, housing, or car.
“It changed my life completely and I have no idea where I would be if it wasn't for Kim and Renee,” said Moniz.
“Being able to see people in a bad situation and three or four months later, they're back on their feet they're moving into a house the kids are happy, the parents are happy, it's a good feeling,” said Rake.
Family Promise is currently housing four families at area churches and its Day Center, has 35 families on a Helena housing list, and another nine families living in cars on a waiting list.