I was blessed by a sermon I heard last month by Rev. Bill Bump at Lawrence Free Methodist Church.  Bill was preaching from Joshua 3 – the people of Israel were about to cross over the Jordan River to the Promised Land.  God directed Joshua to have the priests pick up the Ark of the Covenant, and walk into the river – and wait…
And once the priests took action and got into the river, the passage tells us that the water started piling up “in a heap a great distance away” Jos 3:16 (niv) and according to Bill, this was about 20 miles upstream.  They first had to have faith to get into the water and faith to wait on God for his work.
That story spoke clearly against some discouragement I had been feeling about our plans to expand programming and some frustrations about failed plans that seemed to be working against our timeline.  We had a clear plan for expanding programming, there is the enormous need in our community, perhaps we just needed to get in the water and wait for God’s work to start his work… So that is what we are doing!
In December, our Board of Directors voted to expand programming this year for two primary reasons:
1.  The need of families calling inquiring of our services greatly outweighed our ability to serve.
2.  Evaluation of the data from the calls received and from graduates of the program indicate gaps that we believe we can address to help people remain permanently and sustainably housed.
Our expansion will be primarily through two new programs:
1.  Graduate Supports through Relationship
Families who move through rotation are always very glad to be done with this very difficult program and often can hardly wait to be out on their own again.  That said, over 80% of program participants find their way back to the Day Center, not out of need, but because they are checking in with us, or with network volunteers whom they have built relationships with while in rotation.  As we have seen over and over again, it is the relationships that make the largest impact on the lives of families in the program.   In social work they call this “social capital”, in faith circles this is called “fellowship”.  I believe it is because God created us for community.

Our new Graduate Supports through Relationship program will build on the strengths of Family Promise which is the relationships and through those relationships will offer some specific programming to all program participants including:

* 1 year continued case management after program exit
* Expanded Day Center hours so graduate families can have access to staff and the facilities after usual business hours
* New Beginnings – financial literacy classes
* Life Skills small group facilitation classes
* Nurturing parenting – understanding behaviors group class/facilitation classes
* Syncing with all Network churches to allow graduate families a calendar of events they could participate in at all the congregations in the network
* Fun nights in Network churches to includes potlucks, movie nights and other family activities…”fellowship!”

Each of the formal class offerings will include dinner and childcare/child activities both of which will be led by volunteers, and foster relationship!
2.  Program 515
This program is actually identical to the rotational program.   In this program it will be the same exact application and intake process, the same participation guidelines and requirements, the same screening tools, the same case management offerings, the same programming, the same benevolence offerings, the same opportunity for Temporary Housing and other graduate supports offerings.  The only difference between this program and the rotational program is that the families in Program 515 will remain sheltered where ever they are currently staying.
Where would that be?  It might be camping at the lake, motels, in their vehicles, couch surfing our doubled up, or sheltered elsewhere.
Why Program 515?
It will help address the enormous need in our community using what we know can be successful in terms of the FP programming. It will directly address 3 particular groups we see in our incoming calls:
1.  A family that would qualify for our services, but we are full.  They might be able to start the program in 515, and move into rotation when there is an opening.
2. A family that has some mental health issues that makes the rotation difficult to manage.
3. A family that is currently housed, but has a pending eviction, or is expecting an eviction.  If they enroll with Program 515, they can start working the program, and perhaps would never have to cross into a situation of homelessness.
What’s with the name Program 515?
This is the time of day that the guests in rotation start loading up the van for departure to the hosting congregations and that also was the number of families that called us inquiring of our services the first year we recorded the calls in our database.
We feel clearly this is God’s direction for expanding our services.  If any of this sounds interesting or exciting to you, we will need volunteers!  You all are indeed the strength of this program.  Please contact Shaun if you’d like to help out as we start this expansion in full this summer!  You can reach Shaun at:  Shaun@lawrencefamilypromise.org.
Please be in prayer for us as we go ahead with our plans that we believe God has called us to with these program expansions.  Prayers please for those families we will be blessed to serve, prayers for volunteers and staff to support the program.  Pray as we get in the water!