By Marianne Lincoln
It can happen to anyone. Living paycheck to paycheck as many families do these days, losing the biggest expense, the roof over your heads, is not unlikely. It even happened to me after a job loss and sequestered unemployment benefits, following my time on the school board.
According to Superintendent Seigel of the Bethel School District, the district has 700 students that are experiencing homelessness. Countywide, there are 4200. The Federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act provides the school district with resources to help ensure these youth get to school every day and helps the school eliminate barriers to their education. The rights of eligible children include:
• Right to immediate school enrollment even when records not present
• Right to remain in the school of origin, if in the student’s best interest
• Right to receive transportation to and from the school of origin
• Right to receive support for academic success
In the unincorporated areas of the county, there have not been programs set up to assist families in need. Pastor Samara of the Spanaway United Methodist Church (SUMC) had already been working with a program called Freezing Nights that was started by the Puyallup Homeless Coalition. Then Pierce County authorized a program called Safe Parking. SUMC has donated its parking lot as one of those places for people living in their cars.
Pierce County Human Services Homeless Programs supports a coordinated entry system for families and individuals experiencing homelessness. Residents in need of housing services can contact 2-1-1 weekdays from 8AM-4PM for on-demand support or to schedule an appointment. 24-hour voicemail is available nights and weekends.
Pastor Samara and Superintendent Siegel began organizing to form a local chapter of Family Promise in January. First, there was an introductory meeting for the public, businesses and local leaders. Then on February 9, a core group was called to create a leadership team for the organization so that the required state and Federal applications could be completed. Jessica Pair is the President, Tom Seigel is the Vice President, Marianne Lincoln, Secretary and Samara Jenkins is Treasurer.
Family Promise of Pierce County has submitted their 1023 application for charitable status with the IRS. Under the national organization, they can already raise funds until the 501(c)(3) is approved. March 9, another meeting was held and it was announced the group had been approved for a $250,000 grant. But in order to operate, they need additional board members and teams of volunteers to fill positions to make the project operational.
According to the parent website: Family Promise delivers innovative solutions for family homelessness including prevention, shelter, and stabilization services.
According to their literature, positions needed include:
- Leadership Team
- Fund Development Team
- Communications Team
- Host Recruitment Team
- Family Promise Center Team
- Transportation Team
Training for these teams is available through the parent program resources. Local businesses are welcome to become partners to the program as well.
To get on the emailing list, contact Jessica Pair at email@example.com. The website for the local affiliate is not yet constructed. There is much to do. We hope you will join us!