The program integrates educational outreach, programming and hands-on work by volunteers providing food, shelter and support services for homeless families.
Cleveland’s network is one of seven in the state of Tennessee. In Bradley County, first and foremost is a focus toward children — assuring them safety, shelter, food and love.
Statistics on the homeless as it relates to children are staggering. Nationwide, the average age of the homeless population among children is 5.
In Bradley County, the figures from 2009 and 2010 showed there are 34 homeless children in our city schools alone. That was an eye-opener for me. It’s hard to imagine a child sleeping in a vehicle as a ‘home” then going to school, only to come home to sleep in a car, truck, van or old bus. But it happens. And it’s not somewhere else. It is right here in our community.
Homeless simply means “being without a safe, warm place to eat, sleep and care for children, living without the security of familiar people and belongings.”
The local Family Promise program has been working for some time to get an organized effort to support its aiding the homeless families in our community. Ms. Shady Hernandez is now in place as director to help keep the program organized and staffed with necessary volunteers needed to feed, clothe and help the homeless. Case management for families is intense. Random drug tests are given. Families are traced and accounted for, and those in debt must pay back what they owe before completing the structured program.
There are multiple-step interviews, aimed at identifying the cause of the homeless situation and helping a family to reach a sustainable living environment in the future.
With a director in place, a new Day Center was officially opened earlier this week on Norman Chapel Road, off of Peerless Road. It offers a place for a good night’s sleep and hot meals. Area churches open their doors throughout the week for families to have a warm shelter and food volunteers prepare meals. The Day Center is designed for weekend stays and meals, as needed.
Hosting of families is rotated among participating churches. Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church was the birthplace of Family Promise in our community. I urge other churches to get involved.
We are a blessed community of caring people. There should not be a single homeless child in this community. Let’s help give these families and their children a promise of a better future through Family Promise.
For more information, email Shady Hernandez, director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 423-650-4106.