After helping so many families find homes over the last decade, Fort Bend Family Promise (FBFP) will soon realize the dream of having a place to call home. The non-profit, which has operated out of facilities generously provided by New Hope Lutheran Church since its founding, has a new Day Center under construction in Missouri City on Cartwright Road near Dulles. Completion is anticipated in June 2015.
FBFP, which celebrated its tenth anniversary on February 14, is the county's only organization that helps homeless families with children return to self-sufficiency. What began as a post-retirement part-time job for founder Duane McCullough has grown and blossomed beyond anything he ever imagined. With a very small staff of two full-time and a few part-time employees, FBFP helps families face the daunting challenge of regaining financial stability after losing their home due to a traumatic financial event like illness, lay-off or foreclosure.
Executive Director Vera Johnson explains, "The greatest strength of the program is our amazing interfaith network of host and support congregations that has helped us grow to where we are today. We have more than 800 dedicated volunteers who provide delicious dinners, overnight shelter and emotional support 365 days a year to families trying to rebuild their lives. It is a very cost effective way to help low income families overcome the challenges they face. With our help, they are able to get back into permanent housing in an average of 34 days."
Board President John Tipton says, "We are excited to be the first Family Promise affiliate in the nation to design and construct our own Day Center. It will truly enable us to better serve the community. The families will continue to have dinner and spend the night at the host congregations, while the Day Center provides space for case management and daytime activities. The kids catch the school bus there each morning."
FBFP has worked to significantly reduce building costs by partnering with HomeAid Houston, a charitable organization sponsored by the Greater Houston Builders Association which identifies long term, stable homeless care providers who need additional capacity and pairs them with builders, vendors and suppliers who donate their time, materials and labor.
Long Lake Ltd., builder, and Arte Architecture worked to design the Day Center with a warm and welcoming environment. The Center will offer lounge areas for families to gather, as well as lockers and family-friendly bathrooms. The building will also include space for administrative and counseling staff where families will receive intensive case management to assist in finding housing and meeting other needs. The majority of FBFP's families still have jobs and most have never been homeless before, but they struggle to find affordable housing. The organization strives not just to provide shelter, but also to give families the tools to sustain it.
Because the stress of episodic homelessness can have profound effects on children, another important feature of the Day Center will be the Youth Empowerment computer lab and space for programs to help the children with schoolwork and activities that promote family stability.
Most of the funding for the Day Center has been secured through major contributions from Fluor Corporation, the George Foundation, and the Fort Bend Junior Service League. Other funding came from local churches, businesses, community members and the proceeds from an annual golf tournament.
However, FBFP is still working to raise an additional $100,000 to complete the project without dipping into its operational budget since higher operating costs are anticipated as the program expands. For more information about the program or to make a donation, visit the FBFP website at www.fortbendfamilypromise.org.