Family homelessness is a problem in Knoxville just as it is nationwide. During the second quarter of 2019, 292 homeless families were served by agencies in town. Homeless shelters are not always safe for children. Families are often separated there, and it is especially difficult for families with teenaged boys.
Family Promise was formed to help solve this problem. Family Promise is a nationwide nonprofit started in 1986 whose mission is “to help families experiencing homelessness and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response.” There are over 200 affiliates/networks operating in 43 states. The Knoxville affiliate began in 2005, and First Baptist is one of the original host congregations.
The concept involves pairing homeless families with congregations who have a lot of space sitting idle for most of the week. It enables faithful folks to serve those in need in a safe environment for both those serving and those being served. Family Promise is unique in its ability to house entire families in small groups surrounded by loving individuals in a non-threatening environment.
Once admitted to Family Promise, families stay in a congregation each night and spend their days at the day center on Middlebrook Pike. Social workers work with families to find appropriate housing, develop a budget, learn parenting skills, and develop a plan for success. School-age children continue to attend the Knox County school where they were enrolled before starting Family Promise.
Once per quarter, each host congregation houses families for one week. At First Baptist, Sunday School rooms on the mezzanine above the Kids Hut Café in Trentham Hall are transformed into bedrooms. Air mattresses are inflated, linens are distributed, and hygiene baskets are placed in each room as are goody bags of games and treats for kids. There is a common area for hanging out, watching TV, doing homework, and visiting.
Families arrive around 5:00 each evening, and at 6:00 a homecooked meal is provided. Activities for kids are sometimes planned, but often the families just want some time alone to de-stress in the privacy of their own space. By 7:00 each morning, vans from Knox County Schools and Family Promise pick up everyone and take them to their destination for the day. Families have a quick breakfast before leaving or grab a granola bar for the road. At the end of the week, everything is loaded up, and families move to another congregation.
There are many ways to get involved in this ministry. The team leaders (in parentheses) can answer any questions and plug you in where you want to serve.
- Trailer delivery (Steve Bowman) – Ensure that the supply trailer is received at the beginning of the week, and then deliver it to the next congregation at the end of host week
- Setup/takedown (Emagene Reagan, Charlotte and Jim Damewood) – Sunday morning 8:00-9:00 at the beginning and end of host week
- Providing snacks, breakfast foods, and meals throughout the week (Judy Russell and Leah Fisher)
- Dinner host (Emily and Jim Plemmons) – Arrive around 5:30, assist in setting up the food, and share a meal with the families
- Children/family activities (Emily and Jim Plemmons) – Plan an after-dinner craft, game, or movie for the kids or families
- Overnight host (Kennie Riffey) – Arrive around 8:00, spend time with families, spend the night on an air mattress, ensure breakfast snacks are available, and depart around 7:30 the next morning when the families leave
The remaining 2019 host dates for First Baptist are 9/29-10/6 and 12/8-12/15. Please consider taking a mini-mission trip to Trentham Hall to help meet a critical need in our community. You will be blessed!