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April 2014

24

Emmanuel United Church takes lead to help local homeless

Spare change leads to big changes in a grassroots program that helps those facing a housing crisis.

Emmanuel United Church of Christ in Dousman is taking the lead in a project to provide temporary housing for homeless children and their families by the end of the year and has stepped forward to become one of four founding churches in the effort to start an affiliate in western Waukesha County of a national program called Family Promise.

In addition, the church has made the program the beneficiary of a special offering.

For the past three months, parishioners of the church have been collecting their spare change to help found the project and raised $1,109.73. Family Promise of Western Waukesha County is nonprofit with 501c3 status.

"We can do so much good with something that just puts a little hole in our pockets," she said.

The program

In the Family Promise model, homeless families are hosted from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. by local congregations that provide dinner, sleeping quarters and breakfast. From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the families go to a specific facility that serves as a center for the program, from which children are taken to school and parents receive job, budget and life training from skilled social workers that will help them to create a better future.

Family Promise is a nationwide shelter initiative which has been in existence for more than 20 years and has affiliates in 41 states.

"There are these types of family shelters in New Hope and Madison, but not one in western Waukesha County. People think of Waukesha County as being a very wealthy place which has no homeless problem but that's just not true," said Hawkins.

Working with data from the school districts in Western Waukesha County, as of June 2012, there were more than 100 homeless persons in families with children.

Moving forward

"We want it open for homeless families by December 2013; another nine congregations opening their hearts and their doors to them will make it happen," Hawkins said.

To make the dream a reality, in addition to nine more host congregations, the organization is looking for 20 support congregations to provide financial and volunteer help, a 15-passenger van, a 3,000-square-foot facility to serve as the Family Center and a volunteer coordinator.

For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/site/familypromisewwc/ or call Sue Konkel at (262) 490-0868.

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