(originally published on October 29th, 2020)
Family Promise of Waukesha County, Inc. is implementing a new program for sheltering families in response to Covid-19. This new program will use apartments to shelter families experiencing homelessness. The objective of this model is to provide shelter to families, while keeping them, volunteers and staff healthy during the pandemic. Family Promise of Waukesha County has been providing shelter to families experiencing homelessness since 2014. The rotational model, used prior to the pandemic, was done in partnership with 13 host and 15 support churches. These congregations opened their doors and provided a safe and welcoming space for families to live one week at a time. The next week the families would move to another Church. In March, due to Covid-19, all of the partnering faith communities stopped in-person worship and gatherings. Without a place to shelter families, it became necessary for Family Promise of Waukesha County to suspend the shelter program. Since that time, Family Promise has been seeking a way to shelter families safely.
Even though this is a change in programming, our mission remains to help families with minor children to regain and retain their independence. The Apartment Shelter Program will shelter one family in an apartment for up to ninety days. Like the congregation rotational model, each family will actively participate in case management. They will work with our case manager to set goals and objectives, that once completed will allow them to quickly achieve permanent housing. It is possible that a family could put themselves in position to assume the lease and remain in the apartment. The fewer times a family moves provides more stability and consistency.
Modeled after a program piloted by Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis, we will implement it slowly, starting with our first family in early November. As we become more comfortable with the program, we will gradually increase the number of families we serve. It is our hope to be able to eventually shelter four or five families. This will be a learning process. There will be challenges and no doubt some mistakes ahead of us. We hope you will be patient with us and offer your continued support as we work out the logistics of the program. We are going to need you!
One of the questions we are working to answer is how to best engage volunteers. Some ideas being discussed are preparing meals, grocery shopping for families, assisting with turnover of the apartment, providing supplies such as toilet paper, paper towel and other cleaning supplies. The involvement of volunteers has been crucial to the success of Family Promise of Waukesha County. Yet we are trying to balance that with protecting our families and volunteers. Even if they do not get sick, most families we serve cannot afford to miss work due to quarantine.
Although housing families in an apartment is cheaper than a hotel or even operating one static shelter site, the Apartment Shelter Program is still an expense that we had not planned for in the 2020 budget. We are grateful to the donations we received from individuals during our mid-year appeal and grant awards from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Oconomowoc Area Foundation, Forest County Potawatomi Foundation and the Green Bay Packers Foundation to help us get started. Home-Giving, our end of the year campaign will help fund this program.
If 2020 has taught us anything it is impossible to predict the future. Yet it is our hope that we will be able to return to a rotational model partnering with faith communities. The Apartment Shelter Program is not meant to replace the rotational model. This is a temporary solution to a very challenging problem.
Finally we cannot do this without you. The recipe for the success of Family Promise is the engagement of the community. 90% of families who complete the program remain in their homes. Many of the families will tell you how important the volunteers are to their success. It is uplifting to have volunteers spend time with them and offer their presence. The times we live in are forcing everyone to adapt. We need your support, commitment, advocacy, and advice. Thank you for believing in Family Promise of Waukesha County.