In the Village Support Network, teams composed of members of local congregations assist a family over a six-month period during their transition from shelter to housing. Teams support families in following through on their sustainability plans, provide a small family assistance fund to invest in their success, and help connect them with local resources and integrate into their new community.
We all know the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child.” At New City Initiative, we recognize that every family needs a village of support, especially families that have experienced homelessness. For these families, a network of caring and supportive people can make all the difference when it comes to stability, self-sufficiency, and educational success. It can even reduce the incidence of homelessness for future generations.
Village Support Teams are composed of 4-6 volunteers from a congregation. Each team member commits approximately 4-6 hours a month over six months to work with a family transitioning from shelter to housing. Each team receives 6 hours of training over their six months. Teams work with families to set up action plans, develop budgets, and settle into their new homes and communities. Teams also raise $1,000 to participate in the program. $500 of these funds goes into a "family assistance fund," and the team and the family decide how to spend these funds as targeted investments in the family's success over the six-month period. The other $500 is used to cover program costs, including background checks, move-in expenses for the family, training supplies, and other costs.
The Village Support Network is ending the cycle of homelessness by fostering stability and self-sufficiency for families who have experienced homelessness. By developing and strengthening relationships both within the family and the larger community, teams are helping families increase their housing stability, empowerment, and overall life satisfaction. From 2011-2014, 42 families have been sponsored by congregations through the Village Support Network. Over 90% of these families were still housed at the end of their first year, and 70% had at least one parent who was employed or in school . With the help of their teams, families took measurable steps toward stability: setting goals, making budgets, finding employment, and getting kids enrolled in school and extracurricular activities.
Volunteers who participate in the program deepen their understanding of homelessness, and strengthen their ability to relate to individuals who have experienced homelessness. Members of participating congregations speak highly of our program and of the new perspectives it led them to gain.
Families will have increased stability after participating in the Village Support Network by increased connections/completion of goals in the following areas:
Roseanna came to the Village Support Network with a lot of things going for her: a job as a dog trainer with a local pet store, a wonderful 5 year old son named Caleb, a savings account and a car. When asked why she wanted to be part of the program, Roseanna explains that she was “so scared” to live on her own for the first time, and that an “awesome support network” was the key to helping her family become “stable, comfortable and safe.” She and her team from Grace Memorial Episcopal Church have worked together on the things that matter to her: getting an Individual Development Account (a matched savings account) started, making her house a home, and getting her son settled into school.
Over a year after moving out of shelter, Roseanna and Caleb are still stable in housing.
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