Chris and Suzi arrived at Family Promise Sarasota on bicycles with their pre-teen daughters on the handle bars and baby on the back. This family from Kentucky had been offered a job that fell through when they arrived to Florida.
This family, like many others who have faced job loss, housing scams, two of the most common problems according to Network Director Becky Taylor, and had nowhere to turn, can luckily be helped by Family Promise Sarasota.
“Here in Sarasota, we face low paying jobs and high rents,” Becky said. “Many people are one paycheck away from being homeless…one major medical problem can wipe them out.”
Becky’s research points out that there are currently 1,200 homeless children enrolled in Sarasota County schools. An alarming fact, but Family Promise’s efforts to turn things around provides some hope. “We hammer away at the problem a little at a time,” Becky said.
Family Promise Sarasota relies on the support of local churches for temporary housing for these homeless families; a network of volunteers; referral organizations; and community donations. In 2017, Family Promise Sarasota will be the recipient of the 3rd Annual Suncoast Blues Festival proceeds, benefiting from sponsorships and ticket sales. The fest is being held Jan. 27th and 28th at the Sarasota Fairgrounds where Family Promise will have a booth offering more information on how to help these displaced families become fully self sufficient.
“We were thrilled to hear the news (of Suncoast Blues Festival’s choice to donate to them),” said Caroline Chambliss, Development Director. “We’ve worked together so well.”
Working tirelessly to secure sponsors for the event, Family Promise board members and Greg and Roseanne Herndon, the event promoters, are pleased with the volume of businesses stepping forth to support the cause. TextMax Pro is the presenting sponsor of this year’s Suncoast Blues Festival and dozens more businesses have come forth to help support our homeless families as well as live blues in the community.
Family Promise Sarasota offers an array of services to homeless families with minor children. Starting with a thorough case management intake to determine their needs, they get involved with everything from help at getting driver’s licenses without proper paperwork to assisting with job searches while the families are fed and housed in the Promise House or local congregations as they save money for their futures.
Transportation to get children to school, day care facilities for those not in school, even bicycles for children old enough to ride to the YMCA after school program are arranged and provided.
Among the impressive services is Family Promise Sarasota’s Saturday educational life skills classes. Each weekend parents and older children learn about budgeting, financial management, job searching, stress management (including exercise and creative endeavors), journaling and more.
“Whenever a family asks for something particular, we figure out who can do it…this community has a lot of resources,” Becky said. “We have wonderful volunteers who can teach just about anything to help these families become sustainable (self sufficient), said Becky. “One volunteer even wants to teach public speaking.”
These and other services comprise the 90-day program. When each family ‘graduates,’ most have autos, jobs and housing. They can also furnish their homes with goods from Pines of Sarasota thrift shop.
“Of course, housing is an issue due to the high cost of rents here,” Becky said. “Some families swallow their pride and return to their extended families back home.” Wherever they become self sufficient, the program is designed for just that, which puts them out of the at-risk population and more than likely keeps them from every becoming homeless again.
Family Promise Sarasota welcomes individuals to ask their congregations to help if the church isn’t doing so already. Volunteer openings exist and of course, financial donations are always needed. If you’d like to consider giving an end of the year gift to this non-profit, visit the website and click donate.
You can help, too, by simply becoming a sponsor of the Suncoast Blues Festival or invite your friends and family to attend this star-studded event. The Suncoast Blues Festival Jan. 27th and 28th features an amazing line up of musicians who are, in fact, already getting in the pre-show spirit. Selwyn Birchwood wrote a song for a Family Promise Sarasota video used during a recent Giving Challenge, which according to Caroline, doubled in donations compared to last year.
“I credit the Blues Festival people for that,” Caroline said.
For more information on Family Promise Sarasota call 941-952-1800 or visit the website at www.familypromisesarasota.org. For information on the Suncoast Blues Festival, visit www.suncoastbluesfestival.com or call 941-758-7585.
Photos by Patti Pearson