In the Village Support Network, teams composed of members of local congregations assist a family over a six-month period during their transition from shelter to housing. Teams support families in following through on their sustainability plans, provide a small family assistance fund to invest in their success, and help connect them with local resources and integrate into their new community.
We all know the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child.” At New City Initiative, we recognize that every family needs a village of support, especially families that have experienced homelessness. For these families, a network of caring and supportive people can make all the difference when it comes to stability, self-sufficiency, and educational success. It can even reduce the incidence of homelessness for future generations.
Village Support Teams are composed of 4-6 volunteers from a congregation. Each team member commits approximately 4-6 hours a month over six months to work with a family transitioning from shelter to housing. Each team receives 6 hours of training over their six months. Teams work with families to set up action plans, develop budgets, and settle into their new homes and communities. Teams also raise $500 that goes into a "family assistance fund." The team and the family decide how to spend these funds as targeted investments in the family's success over the six-month period.
The Village Support Network is ending the cycle of homelessness by fostering stability and self-sufficiency for families who have experienced homelessness. By developing and strengthening relationships both within the family and the larger community, teams are helping families increase their housing stability, empowerment, and overall life satisfaction. In 2013, 15 families were sponsored by 18 congregations through the Village Support Network. Of these, all but one (93%) had positive housing outcomes. Seventy three percent have either main- tained or achieved employment. With the help of their teams, families took measurable steps toward stability, setting goals, making budgets, and finding employment.
Teams are also deepening their understanding of homelessness, and strengthening their ability to relate to individuals who have experienced homelessness. From hosting new teams to becoming advocates for issues of homelessness in Portland and beyond, members of participating congregations speak highly of our program and of the new perspectives it led them to gain.
Families will have increased stability after participating in the Village Support Network by increased connections/completion of goals in the following areas:
In February 2013, Tina and Robbie were living in a shelter with their daughter, Mindy, both without employment but confident that things could turn around. They were matched with a support team from Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. The team assisted them in achieving the goals they had set for themselves. Now, Robbie and Tina are both working full-time as supervisors for DePaul Industries Security Services and Mindy is traveling after graduating high school in June 2014 with college in the near future. The family has achieved amazing things during their few months in the Village through their own efforts and with the support and encouragement of their team.
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