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Churches become shelters for homeless families



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A program that helps homeless families is in need of more volunteers, as more families are faced with living on the streets. It's called Family Promise.

Sherlyn and her 8-year-old son, Kyle, are moving into their own apartment this week.


There is no city or county anywhere in the United States where a worker making the minimum wage can afford a fair market rate one-bedroom apartment. -Family Promise

"I couldn't believe it when I first heard. I was like, ‘Whoa!' Kyle said.

They've spent the last three months homeless, and in the Family Promise program.

"I chose to come in here because I needed the help," Sherlyn said. "I knew I wouldn't be able to make it without some kind of help."

The way the program works is this: A network of churches takes in a few families for one week at a time. The program won't accept people with disabilities because of their limited resources; also, no drug or alcohol problems.

Each family gets their own room. Volunteers make dinner, and families aren't allowed to stay during the day. Instead, they can go to the day center to work with case managers. They look for work, try to find permanent housing and improve their job skills.

On average, families will stay for about six weeks. Last fiscal year, Family Promise served 90 people -- 23 families -- and they want to help more.

**Did you know…**
• 13% of Americans live in poverty, including one in five children, the highest rate in the industrialized world • 42% of homeless children are under the age of 6 • Almost 60% of Americans will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75 • There is no city or county anywhere in the United States where a worker making the minimum wage can afford a fair market rate one-bedroom apartment • The cost of rent and utilities for a typical two-bedroom apartment has increased 35% in less than 10 years • 2 million additional American children will fall victim to the foreclosure crisis over the next two years - *Family Promise*
"It's seemed to increase anywhere from 40 to 50 percent each year over the last three to four years, and so families are the largest and fastest growing population of the homeless," said Charles Roe, president of Family Promise. At the day center, kids play and families talk. Most feel it's a more pleasant experience than any other shelter.

And the program is successful: Sherlyn will be moving in to her new place on Christmas Eve.

"I said, ‘All I want for Christmas is my own place.' And everything fell into place," Sherlyn said.

Sherlyn is now working at the LDS Church Office Building and going to school.

If you'd like to donate items, volunteer time -- or even your church building -- visit www.fpsl.org or contact Jennifer Hare or Tony Milner at the Family Promise Day Center at 801-961-8622. You can also contact or Charlie Roe at 801-673-1952.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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Nicole Gonzales

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