|This painted tree in the entry of Family Promise of Northern Kentucky holds photos of many of the families the sheltering program has helped.|
After serving northern Kentucky families for 23 years, Family Promise of Northern Kentucky, a sheltering program that allows families to stay together, was forced to close its doors May 2014.
|Amanda Speier, Family Promise of Northern Kentucky executive director.|
Enter the Fort Thomas Ministerial Association.
According to Executive Director Amanda Speier (who many Fort Thomas residents might recognize from her second full-time job at the Campbell County YMCA), largely thanks to a collaborative effort from the churches in Fort Thomas, Family Promise reopened July 2016.
So how does Family Promise work?
Family Promise accepts a maximum of four families and no more than 14 individuals at any given time.
"We're the only all-inclusive family shelter in northern Kentucky," Speier says. Many shelters can't accept anyone under 18 due to liability issues, and most shelters are for men only or women only. Family Promise is the only local shelter that keeps families together. Families can include single mothers, single fathers, husbands and wives with or without children, same-sex partners, grandparents etc. "We never define what family looks like," Speier says.
Local churches host the families on a rotating basis. For one week the families will eat dinner, spend the night on cots and air mattresses, and then eat breakfast at the host church. Volunteers provide and prepare home-cooked meals. (Many churches that don't have room to house the families overnight contribute by providing meals at a host church for a week.)
"It's neighbors helping neighbors," Speier says.
|The child-friendly play area at Family Promise's Newport location.|
|The Day Center's lounge.|
|Families can store leftovers and other items in the Day Center's kitchen.|
|Amber Pegg, Family Promise of Northern Kentucky director of operations and case manager.|
Director of Operations Amber Pegg (who, like Speier, also has a second full-time job) serves as case manager for each of the families. She meets with them once a week, helping them find employment and social services. She also helps families create budgets – the goal is for adult family members to find jobs and save money while in the program, so that they have enough money when they graduate from the program to put down a deposit and first month's rent on an apartment. Family Promise also provides transportation to things like doctor appointments, job interviews and more during a family's stay.
In order to allow families to stay together, Family Promise does require drug testing and background checks, where they mostly look for violent and/or recent crimes. Because of this, they aren't eligible for federal or state funding (however they do receive county funding). While this is a barrier for some seeking shelter, drug testing and background checks is what allows Family Promise to open their doors to women, children and men, keeping families together.
How can you help?
If your church is not a host church, consider becoming one. Right now Family Promise is working with 10 host churches, but they'd like to be working with 13 so that each church only hosts four times a year.
Become a volunteer. You don't need to be affiliated with a host church – or any church – to prepare home-cooked meals, plan activities, clean the Day Center, read books and play board games with children, help adults write resumes and more. Volunteers are always needed and welcome at host churches.
Think outside the box. Last year Campbell County YMCA provided six scholarships for children in the Family Promise program to attend summer camp while their parents worked. Restaurants such as Sparetime's Belly & Soul Diner and Skyline Chili in Highland Heights offers families the opportunity to eat out at no cost. Photographers volunteer time and talent by taking nice photos of families – for many, these photos are the only ones these families have.
Follow Family Promise NKY on Facebook for opportunities to volunteer or help. There you will find updates about fundraising events (March 28 eat at the Boone, Kenton and Campbell county locations of Barleycorn's and tell your sever you're there to support Family Promise of NKY and 15 percent of your sale will be donated to the program) and posts seeking items such as specific clothing sizes for a new family.
"We try to maintain normalcy for the families," Speier says. This includes making it possible for families to celebrate life milestones and achievements, such as birthdays, anniversaries, good grades, etc. Volunteers will often provide a card and flowers for a husband to give to his wife on an anniversary, or they'll put together a party for a child's birthday, complete with cake, balloons and gifts.
Speier says everyone, from Northern Kentucky University students and Girl Scout troops to stay-at-home moms and children who are homeschooled, have volunteered their time, money and talent. Corporations can also get involved via event sponsorships and company-tailored volunteer programs.
Family Promises's vision is "a nation in which every family has a home, a livelihood and the chance to build a better future." Two women at 336 West 9th St. in Newport, and hundreds of volunteers in Campbell, Kenton and Boone counties, are currently working to make this vision a reality. Join them in May at Pints for Promise in Fort Thomas, follow them on Facebook and consider a donation of time, talent or money. Together, the residents of Fort Thomas can help homeless families regain employment and housing, while keeping their family unit – no matter what that looks like – together.