Family Promise launches new programs

Expanding its efforts to assist families experiencing homelessness and support their growth into financially stable community members, Family Promise is launching seven new programs in 2020 for their participants and graduates.

"Homelessness in southern Chester County is far more pervasive than most people think, affecting single men and women, as well as families. For families with children, Family Promise is here to help," said Susan Minarchi, executive director of Family Promise of Southern Chester County. "Homelessness is a hidden problem in our county. Often, families are living in their cars, out of sight. They don't want to come to shelters where the family might be housed separately. We keep families together."

"Events that cost families who live paycheck to paycheck to lose their housing include job loss, car repairs, health crisis, a broken relationship or death of a family member." (Courtesy photo)

Family Promise takes a village approach, Minarchi said. With a group of 800 volunteers from area churches and businesses, the families are housed and fed by different area churches each week. After permanent housing is secured, case managers continue to work with the families for another year.

"We have worked with 50 families since we opened our doors in November 2015," said Minarchi, "and 100 percent are still in housing."

New this year is a Back to School Program for parents to get accreditations and increase their earning potential. This is critical to success in Chester County, where according to Family Promise, a renter must earn $24.35 per hour to afford a two-bedroom rental, well over Pennsylvania's minimum wage of $7.25.

"Case management is the bedrock of what we do. Families need structure, guidance on how to manage money and also, how to be good tenants," said Minarchi. A Savings Match Program of up to $750 will incent program families to begin the habit of saving money for an emergency fund to bolster against future financial setbacks.

"Often, families don't go to a shelter because they don't want to be forced to give up a beloved family pet," said Minarchi. Partnering with Petsmart, the Pets with a Promise program funds lodging, vets bills and special needs for the pet until permanent pet-friendly housing can be secured.

The new Back to Work program aids the adults in purchasing items that may be required for them to return to work. Items can range from required uniforms to tools needed for a trade.

"When families are living paycheck to paycheck, an expense like needing new tires for the car cut into rent payments or force a family into high-interest debts," said Minarchi. The Micro-Loan program, offering loans up to $1,000 with 0 percent interest are available to family participants to keep them independent.

Another program, Help You Move In, has two components. The first focuses on homeless prevention by helping families who are at risk of losing their housing situation. The second covers move-in expenses like the first month's rent and security deposit.

Southern Chester County, with its less than robust public transportation, means most families require a car to get to work. Wheels for Work accepts donated used cars from the community, works with trusted repair shops to get the vehicle in good working order, and then sells it to the family for a nominal fee.

To help more families, Family Promise is holding "An Evening of Promise" on March 28 at Hartfeld National. The event will feature a Contest of Cocktails where professional mixologists (aka bartenders) make their signature drinks and guests vote for the best.

"This year, drinks will all use Casamigos Tequila," said Minarchi. The drinks will be accompanied by heavy hors oeuvres and the silent auction features items like a Talula's Table reservation for May, tickets for "Hamilton" on Broadway and an America's Cup in San Diego Sailing package. For more information on Family Promise or to purchase tickets for "An Evening of Promise" go to familypromisescc.org.

 

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About Karen Myers

Karen Myers lives in Pocopson Township and has written for several local publications. A strong supporter of our community, Karen has served on several non-profit boards, such as Pocopson Elementary PTO, The United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County Art Association and Tick Tock Early Learning Center. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Delaware and worked in marketing and operations with a focus on banking.

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