Riding on a ‘Promise’
Jul 11, 2013 | 528 views | 0 0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Organizers aren’t working to revive a counterculture movement like that glorified in the 1969 American classic “Easy Rider,” but the backers of Saturday’s motorcycle benefit for Family Promise are hoping to promote public awareness of a growing societal ill in Cleveland — homelessness.

They’re going about it in a style that is as exhilarating as it is unique.

For a mere $10 fee per rider or passenger, participants will follow a police escort for a 1 1/2 to two-hour motorcycle ride that will make its final stop at Tinsley Park pavilion 2 where riders will be treated to some music and conversation.

Family Promise planners hope a few of the 14 families who have graduated its 13-week program over the past two years will be on hand at the pavilion to share their experiences with the benefit riders and passengers.

The special event will get started Saturday with registration from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Family Promise Day Center. At the conclusion of the ride, participants will be treated at the Tinsley pavilion to “fun and music,” according to planners. The music will be provided by Sacred Highway and the Life Bridges Trio.

The fact that the rider and passenger fee is only $10 is proof of this: Participants will enjoy the freedom of a motorcycle cruise and the refreshing spirit of the open air, but it’s not about the money. It’s about public awareness.

For any who are unfamiliar with its passion, Family Promise is a nonprofit organization run almost exclusively by volunteers. The program works with 11 host churches that help to provide temporary housing for homeless families in Cleveland and another 20 that provide volunteers, food, furniture and the various services needed to keep the nonprofit afloat.

Family Promise centers its work on homeless families with children, the latter of whom are not unlike others their age in that they try to attend school but they struggle to keep up in the classroom because most have no idea where they will sleep each night nor the source of their next meal.

Diana Whittle, a dedicated Family Promise volunteer who was featured Monday in our weekly “Personality Profile,” brought a more accurate perspective to the issue of homelessness — at least, in our Cleveland hometown — that goes against the grain of public perception.

She explains it best.

“So many times people think the homeless are the guys walking down the street dragging their feet asking for a dollar here and there,” she told staff writer Delaney Walker in an article published in the July 2 issue of this newspaper. “That is not it. These are people like you or me who have families and have lost their home for whatever reason.”

She added, “We have children who are doing horrible in school because they don’t know where they are going to spend the night or if they are going to eat.”

The root causes of homelessness are many: Sudden loss of job, divorce, catastrophic illness, foreclosure ... and sometimes it is a combination. And often, it is a case of a family, or a single mom with kids, who is simply down on her luck.

Family Promise volunteers tell us this: the average face of a homeless family in Cleveland is a divorced mother who has children. This is one reason area churches are stepping up to help. They are offering safe places for these families to sleep during their rebound. They are providing food. They are giving transportation. They are counseling. In short, they are doing the kind of work that is expected of them and which they expect of themselves.

Another Family Promise worker — Eva VanHook — points to this reality. Those who don’t drive down the right streets might never see the severity of the problem. In the case of homelessness, seeing is believing.

Established in September 2011, Family Promise is a group on a mission.

We encourage the community’s support. We urge increased involvement.

To learn more, check out Saturday’s motorcycle benefit or visit the organization’s website at www.familypromisebradley.org.

Homelessness doesn’t just happen to those other people. Homelessness can happen to us all.