During Lawrence’s annual apartment flip in August, when landlords all over the city are painting and cleaning and making repairs to get their units ready for new tenants, the apartment building at 913 Tennessee St. will be going through a metamorphosis more dramatic than most. The two-bedroom units will be freshened up, furnished and filled with groceries to welcome four families served by Family Promise of Lawrence who are transitioning out of homelessness.

Family Promise is collaborating with Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church, which owns the complex, the Lawrence Board of Realtors, private donors and volunteers from churches, families and civic organizations to get the apartments ready for their new tenants in September. The addition of the new units nearly doubles the amount of temporary housing the nonprofit offers, from five to nine, allowing it to provide temporary housing to about 18 families a year.

Family Promise began offering temporary housing to program participants in 2012, with one unit. Since then, more than 60 families have been served through the Temporary Housing Program.

The new tenants will be families like Bethany’s (name changed to protect privacy). This mom of five and graduate of the Family Promise program will never forget what it was like to move into Family Promise’s transitional housing after experiencing homelessness for nearly a year.

“It felt really great, to finally have a place to go where we could have our family time and not all be together in one room. The kids loved it because they had their rooms, their own space, and didn’t have to worry about being too loud,” she remembers.

Without the low-cost temporary housing provided by Family Promise, she says her family would have been in the program’s rotation much longer while they saved for housing. “The cost of renting a place around here is crazy ridiculous,” Bethany says.

“Family Promise of Lawrence rents a property at below-market rates from private property owners and Family Promise pays all utilities. The guest families in the program pay a small amount of monthly rent and utilities fees, all of which are well below market rate and never exceeding 30 percent of the family income,” explains Dana Ortiz, executive director of Family Promise of Lawrence. “The purpose of this program is to allow qualifying guests of the Family Promise programs to move into a unit, continue working with our case management, participate in formal classwork, and practice the budgeting and financial literacy tools offered by Family Promise.”

Each temporary housing unit is fully furnished. When families move on to their own, permanent housing, usually after a six to nine-month stay, they may take all the items from the unit they want with them. The unit is resupplied prior to the next family moving in.

“Our tracked outcomes have shown that a temporary stay in this program allows an opportunity for parents to practice budgeting with a safety net of guidance, coaching, support and accountability through Family Promise case management,” Ortiz says. “Families are therefore more adequately equipped for successful permanent, sustainable housing. In 2016, 100 percent of the families who left the temporary housing program moved directly into their own permanent housing.”

How Can YOU Get Involved in Almost Home: Project 913?

Family Promise is inviting community members to help renovate, furnish, equip and support the new temporary housing units. To sign up to help paint, plant, work on the units in the month of August: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c044eaaaa2fa2fd0-almost

Volunteers are needed to:
Stock the kitchen. Help fill the kitchens with all the new cooking and dining items a busy family will need, from pots and pans to can openers.
Stock the bedrooms. Help homeless families get a good night’s sleep by donating new bedding for our transitional units.
Stock the bathrooms. The families need everything from new towels to toothbrush holders.
To make stocking the apartment easy and avoid duplication of donated items, Family Promise has set up a gift registry at Target or Target.com.
Donate like-new bedroom, living room and dining room furniture. Help outfit the new transitional homes with new or very gently used furniture.
Get ready for move-in day. Family Promise needs folks to help get the apartments ready for families to move in, from apartment renovation and clean up to stocking the closets with donated kitchen and bath supplies.
For information, please contact Development Director Becky Peters at becky@lawrencefamilypromise.org or Executive Director Dana Ortiz at dana@lawrencefamilypromise.org.

Blog written by Micki Chestnut

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