A story of a family moving forward.

A story of a family moving forward.

Families Moving Forward is one of Colonial’s long-time mission partners. If you aren’t familiar, FMF functions as the shelter program of PORTICO Interfaith Housing Collaborative. Volunteers from hosting congregations (Colonial is one of 40+) throughout the Twin Cities provide a week of shelter, meals and hospitality to up to 8 families, or about 30 parents and children. Colonial hosts at least 2, but usually 3 weeks per year and it’s one of the highlights of our mission and outreach.

FMF has advocates who assist families in the program to:

  • pursue employment and permanent housing,
  • take financial literacy classes, and
  • maintain their children’s stable education and enrichment activities.

Scheduling and routine are important: In the evenings, families are offered transportation to the congregation sites, returning to the FMF Program Center each morning after breakfast, where school-age children are picked up and dropped off by school buses. The FMF Program Center also offers storage for personal belongings, laundry machines, computer access and a quiet room.

I want to share with you a numerical overview of the program, but leave you with a story of one of the families:

  • 52 families were sheltered last year, or 68 adults and 119 children (more than half under age 6)
  • 44 children enrolled in HeadStart, 19 in a summer program, 14 received academic assessments
  • Average length of stay was 54 days compared with our goal of 90 days
  • 57 percent exited the program positively into stable housing: 10 into our Keys to Success Program; 7 to transitional housing; 4 to market-rate housing; 4 to permanent subsidized housing
  • Volunteers contributed 32,690 hours as congregation hosts or Program Center volunteers
  • Congregations provided 10,241 shelter nights and 30,723 meals

And now that story I promised:

Every family hits a rough patch in the road sometimes. In Michael’s case, he and daughter, Michelle, 12, were building a new life in Arizona, where they’d moved so he could enroll in a motorcycle mechanics training program. “That was Plan A“, said the single dad.

But last year, Michelle experienced an acute mental health crisis. Unable to find adequate health care and support in Arizona, the father and daughter returned to Minneapolis, where they have family connections, to seek support and healing for her.

While staying temporarily with a close family friend, Michael learned of Families Moving Forward. He has high praise for the staff and volunteers who helped him to problem-solve and stay motivated to accomplish what needed to be done.

The program shows you that you can never give up. You’ve got to stay focused. FMF is a good place to go. They teach you, but you have to do it for yourself too. They give you tools and they want you to succeed,” Michael said. For example, he appreciates the budgeting skills he learned and continues to apply as he makes ends meet each month.

Most important, however, is making sure that his daughter is getting better and has support. In that regard, Michael said, FMF advocate Mai Choua Yang was “right on point. She was really able to connect with Michelle and help her access the resources she needs.

For now, that support includes Michael being at home to care for Michelle while she’s not in school. But soon, he said, he will be able look for a job – and he’s already got Plan B in gear. He’ll take his commercial driver’s license test and hopes to work for a waste management company or a similar job. Thanks to Families Moving Forward, their path is a little smoother now.

You can follow Families Moving Forward on Twitter.

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