Partner Stories: Family Promise

 

Bedding and School Uniforms Fill a Big Void for Families Served by

 

Family Promise of Jacksonville.png

Through our Clothing with Purpose Program, we have partnered with Family Promise of Jacksonville (FPJ) a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to end homelessness to families with children. Our partnership offers an opportunity to collaborate with FPJ by donating clothing items, beddings items, shoes, face masks, and other items that get donated to our organization by individuals, businesses, and corporate partnerships. These items help a family as they transition from homelessness.

The genesis of Family Promise came from one woman’s determination to keep homeless families together in shelters for the homeless. Over 30 years ago, Family Promise was born out of that determination when the founder encountered a single mother and her two boys on the streets of New York City in the middle of winter, despite the availability of multiple shelters. When asked why she wasn’t sheltering inside, the mother explained that her boys were just old enough that most shelters would send them to the men’s side of the shelter and her to the women’s side. She refused. Family Promise now has over 240 affiliate groups in 43 states. Family Promise Jacksonville started in 2006 and just celebrated its 15th year of service to homeless or near-homeless families in Jacksonville.

The families that receive support from Family Promise all look different. The common denominator, explains Executive Director Mark Landschoot, is children. It could be a single mom or dad with their children.  Two parents, an adult child, smaller children, and a grandmother. It might be grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Every family is different, but every family includes children, and this program keeps them together as a unit as they emerge from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

Family Promise has three levels of support.

The Emergency Congregational Rotation is a Temporary Shelter program for homeless families. A network of area churches provides shelter one week at a time, housing families on a rotating basis. Volunteers provide home-cooked meals, and families stay together in private sleeping rooms. Case Management services and school transportation are provided during this time.

The Family Support Program continues to support these families after they emerge from temporary to stable housing. This program also helps sustain families that may be one electric payment or rent payment away from falling into homelessness. In both programs, the focus is on individual case management with services that encompass affordable housing, gainful employment, financial awareness, medical needs, and educational needs.     

Rapid Rehousing is a new arm of support offered by Family Promise that is currently working to move families forced into extended stay hotels during COVID into apartments or other stable housing. These are often working families caught in the “hotel trap” – making just enough to pay for the hotel week to week but not enough to pay for the extras (1st months’ rental deposit, electricity deposit, etc.) to transition into more stable housing.

Landschoot and Development Director Beth Mixson reflected on the vital role PSMJax plays in their ability to provide for the families they serve. Mixson considers the pillows, mattress covers, and blankets provided by PSM through corporate partner Helix as the most significant contribution.  “Sleep is such a basic human need,” said Mixson. “To have clean, fresh bedding is such a gift. It is dignity and hospitality in action.”  Upon seeing a room set up with beds and lamps and tables, one mother considering the program asked, “Who else will share this room with us?”  When she was told that the room was for her family alone, she broke down in tears.

The partnership started years ago with the exchange of clothing, which is still a vital component of the relationship. The many children in the program need school clothes and increasingly need school uniforms. Those needs are filled by The Giving Closet Project, another PSM partner that receives the bulk of school uniforms and clothes they distribute from PSMJax. Landschoot remarked on the long relationship Family Promise has had with PSMJax surrounding clothing needs. He said it started small, and remarks on how organized the operation has become. On the first day of school, back-to-school pictures are always a big deal. “Thanks to clothing provided by PSM, those pictures are so exciting for us and the families,” said Mixson. During COVID, PSM was also able to provide Family Promise with enough masks for all the families over an extended period. “I have a minivan, and every time I go to Presbyterian Social Ministries for supplies, I come back with a van so full I have to be careful to make sure I can see out the back of the van.”  A lot of basic needs are filled at no cost with the items from PSM. This leaves families with the extra money they can use to fill up their gas tank or order important documents like birth certificates needed for school or doctor visits. “Even the fun stuff is important,” said Mixson. “We can often get costumes at Halloween, and what better way to celebrate childhood. Who doesn’t want to be a baby dinosaur or a fairy princess!”

Mixson explains that PSMJax has been a force in building partnerships with companies like Helix (for bedding) and Centrix (school uniforms), and Family Promise has been the beneficiary. The three rooms at Family Promise headquarters dedicated to respite for each family are outfitted with bedding from PSMJax. If PSM vanished, we would have to go to another community agency for clothing, household, and bedding needs,” Mixson explained.  “But, even those agencies are supplied by PSMJax, so their existence has a ripple effect throughout the community.”  Family Promise leaders explain that they don’t have the space or expertise to operate a clothing closet and depend on PSMJax for that important contribution. “I know that what PSMJax needs more than anything is warehouse space. We are hoping that happens because the impact would be tremendous,” said Mixson.

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Mark Landschoot, Executive Director

Beth Mixson, Development Director

Family Promise Jax website

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Family Promise of Jacksonville: Bedding and School Uniforms Fill a Big Void for Families Served by Family Promise of Jacksonville.

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