Over the past seven months, we’ve been sharing stories about our families and how our programs have transitioned to address their emerging needs. Our shelter was moved to a hotel to keep families and volunteers safe while case management has continued virtually. We all miss our congregations and having the families at the Day Center, but we’re grateful that we’ve been able to keep our shelter open and continue to serve families.
Our biggest challenge has been looking into the future.
When families reach their goals in shelter, we provide the resources and guidance they need to move back into their own apartments in the community. The two biggest challenges have always been locating affordable apartments and finding landlords who feel comfortable renting to our families. With the onset of COVID, increased unemployment rates and a moratorium on evictions—which have forced landlords to screen tenant applicants even more thoroughly—have added to these obstacles.
So once again we turn to our community knowing, now more than ever, we need to face these challenges together.
In this month’s newsletter we will share stories of community partners who are working with us to create housing for our families. They represent different sectors in our network: private donors concerned about equal access to affordable housing; a congregation that believes offering affordable housing is an extension of their mission; and local government providing funds for rental assistance while partnering with Family Promise for case management.
We are grateful for their commitment and excited to share their stories.
A Mission Moves Forward
It all began because someone cared.
One Friday afternoon, a woman read one of our emails about our struggle to find affordable units for families coming out of shelter. Rather than move on with her day, she made a call to her landlord, knowing there was an apartment downstairs in her building coming up for rent. This woman is a tenant of the Community United Methodist Church in Wayland, and the call was to Dave Getchonis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
“When I heard about the need for an affordable apartment, it was a natural extension of our mission and partnership with Family Promise,” Dave shared.
You see the congregation had been offering support to Family Promise for years by providing volunteers and meals to families while in shelter. They were already committed and now had an opportunity to make real change for a family coming out of shelter.
We held meetings with the trustees and the board to answer all questions, determine an affordable rent, and review a lease that Family Promise would cosign. We discussed roles and assured the congregation that FPM would provide the resources and case management needed for the family to be sustainable in the years ahead.
In one week, a family will be moving into this beautiful home in Wayland. In the interim we are working with other partners to obtain furniture and household goods while coordinating the move with volunteers to do the heavy lifting. Once the move is complete, we look forward to sharing pictures of our family in their new home.
The congregations in our network have been supporting families in shelter since 2008 by providing food and safe housing for our families. And now, this congregation will be providing a permanent, affordable home for one of our families, making an impact on their lives for years to come.
Jill Rabideau, our coordinator at Community United Methodist, shared her thoughts about this further evolution of our partnership with her congregation:
“The distinct success of the families served by Family Promise MetroWest has inspired members of our congregation for the many years we have supported families in shelter. The apartment rental is an exciting continuation of our dedication to the families and program. We can't wait to welcome our new neighbors to their home and community!”
A Monthly Gift That Changes Lives
Over the years, a few generous donors have stepped forward looking to make an immediate and substantial impact for a specific FPM family by subsidizing their monthly rent for an entire year. As we’ve witnessed over and over, giving a family breathing room in their budget as they make the monumental transition back into apartments of their own is often a critical step to ensure long-term stability. This is not just “rent money,” but actually a gift of time—additional months to work toward financial goals so a family can assume their full rent at the one-year mark and move confidently into their future. One of our long-time supporters, Bob Brack, sent us the following note to share why he has chosen to support families in this way:
Over the past seven years, rent increases have exceeded wage increases by a significant percentage. This has made it imperative that Family Promise help bridge the difference. I have been an advocate and supporter of this gap funding over the last few years based on the economic reality that these families face as they work through the transitions in their lives. This is done with the knowledge that Family Promise has a very strong case management support system in place.
As we looked over the horizon, the landscape and the model has dramatically changed for Family Promise due to COVID. The base program for housing the homeless has moved to a rental model in a hotel. With the loss of jobs because of the pandemic, more families are at risk of eviction, which increases the need for more people to be in shelter, the Transitional Living program, or the LIFE program. The increase in demand for Family Promise services will increase the need for more case management staff. This will have to be supported by a larger budget, but it also will increase the need for more gap funding for Transitional Living and the LIFE programs.
With great respect for what Family Promise Metrowest has done over the past years, —Bob Brack
We now have two other donor families that have directed their generosity toward this model of “gap funding”: one that has not only subsidized the rent, but also welcomed our family into one of their own rental units; and another that has enabled a family to move into their town to take advantage of their excellent schools and proximity to the mother’s downtown workplace. We are so grateful for these creative and generous collaborations, as they have truly changed each family’s life.
Partnering for Families
In August we received a call from Eliot Yaffa, Community Development Administrator for the City of Framingham. Eliot was calling to discuss HUD funds they had, which were to be used toward Tenant Based Rental Assistance for families moving into Framingham. Since the onset of COVID, there have been various streams of emergency funding released to families for rental assistance, but this was a little different: Eliot was offering us an opportunity to partner with the City of Framingham. They will provide the funds for rental assistance while we will refer the families and provide case management. Everyone wins.
When I asked Eliot why he called Family Promise, he shared his thoughts about working together:
“Family Promise operates the kind of programs that we were looking to fund. With the small budget we have for this we were looking to work with a program that had manageable case loads so we provide subsidies to the families who most need it. Also, during these uncertain times, they provide much needed extended case management and work with families who have nowhere else to turn.”
This opportunity will allow families in our shelter to move into apartments and pay only pay 35% of their income on rent for one year while the HUD rental assistance will cover the balance. This will give families time to work with their case managers to reach individual goals that will establish long-term sustainability.
This program is being offered to our families because of a partnership with Eliot and the city of Framingham—a relationship based on respect and a commitment to work together to share resources that will ultimately make real change in our community.
How You Can Help
While all of these partnerships described above are critical and creative ways to get our families into homes of their own, one of the most successful methods of finding housing is through YOUR referrals. Do you know anyone who owns or manages an apartment in the region? We are especially seeking apartments in Framingham and Needham. If you, or someone you know, would like to talk to us about how we partner with landlords to refer responsible, reliable tenants, please email [email protected] Thank you!
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