The O Family
Crystal O. sat on her couch. Prayed. And then called Family Promise.
Her ex had stolen her savings, and she no longer had money for rent. “That put me in a position where we had nowhere to go,” Crystal said. “The first call I made was to 211 (United Way), and they said Family Promise had an opening. I called and got in that night.”
Two months later, she’s moving into an apartment in Lowry with a two-year-voucher to help with rent through the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, a Family Promise partner.
“It’s rapid rehousing so if I’m a good tenant, I can stay,” Crystal said.
She and her two daughters, 7-year-old Kiyah and 5-year-old Kemani, stayed at Family Promise for two months, an experience that changed Crystal: “You all are great – you’re a listening ear,” she said. “The program really humbled me and opened my eyes a lot. It made me redirect my own actions. I enjoy constructive criticism from people who want to see me go in a better direction, and you get a lot of that … I really learned a lot about myself here.”
What is she most excited about in her new home?
“Everything! The girls have their own bathroom … and I can decorate everything how I want,” Crystal said. “I just love that we have our own space.”
See the rest of the O family’s story on 9NEWS!
Jamie was determined to move into a brighter future.
“My family and I have been homeless for a total of a year,” she said. “It was just a vicious cycle of being on the street and being homeless.”
But not anymore.
Jamie works full-time at a local hotel, and she and her three children are moving into their own home through our Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program. The family also found an apartment through the Landlords Opening Doors Campaign after staying at shelters, motels and then Family Promise over the summer.
“The money ran dry,” Jamie said. “I knew Family Promise was a longer-term program so I called.”
Families stay in the program for one to two months, working with a family advocate to focus on stable housing as well as employment and savings.
“I had extensive case management, and I had a lot of people who had my back in the decisions I made,” Jamie said. “It’s nice to have people supporting you.”
Jamie felt that support across the program – in the congregations providing shelter and at the Day Site.
“No matter what, they didn’t judge,” she said. “They tried to help me out; everybody worked as a team. It was so much more than a place to sleep.”
Now Jamie’s excited about her new backyard in addition to more space for the whole family.
“The kids are excited to have their own room and not have to share with their sister or brother or mom,” she said. “It will be nice to have our own privacy.”
The family just has to decorate and enjoy their new home.
“We’ll probably hang up pictures, and I have some drawings that the kids did while they were in the program that I want to put on the walls – just to remember where we came from and reflect on things,” she said. “I think it’s good to think about how far you’ve come.”
Learn more about the Landlords Opening Doors Campaign!
(Above: Left to right – Eric Jr. (1), Aylissa, Dominic (2), Eric, Ilyana (3))
Eric and Aylissa moved to Denver after a family loss.
“We were staying with Eric’s mom in California. She had passed away, and after that, everything went downhill,” Aylissa said. “We separated with other family members and bounced around to three different places before moving here.”
Aylissa previously lived in Colorado and had happy memories. The couple and their three children called Family Promise, and began staying with the congregations that provide the program’s emergency shelter. The congregations are located across the metro-Denver area.
“I thought it was cool because you get to expand and meet new people,” Eric said. “Not only that, but you get to see different parts of Colorado.”
“And then we also got to see downtown Denver because the Day Site shelter is right here,” Aylissa said.
Eric works as a manager at Burger King, and Aylissa is enrolling in a degree program at The Art Institute of Colorado. The family obtained a housing voucher through the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
“I walked into the home we’re in, and I couldn’t find a single thing wrong,” Eric said.
“It’s on the ground floor, and the pantry’s huge,” Aylissa said. “Ilyana’s even going to have her own room.”
Eric also loves the outdoor space and is already thinking about enjoying it with friends and family.
“My favorite part is the backyard and that the backyard gets a lot of sun,” he said. “It’s a big backyard – you can still have room for your chairs and a grill and DJ.”
These five are now part of the Family Promise family.
“I like the people here,” Aylissa said. “I’m coming back, but as a volunteer.”
Samantha, Trent and their 5-year-old daughter, Raelyn, have stayed with Family Promise before.
“It was two years ago — December 2013,” Trent said. “We had a great experience: Everyone was there for us. We moved into housing when we were supposed to,” Samantha said. “We kept in touch with our case manager, Mandy, and she helped us out with resources.”
But the family was involved in a severe car accident last October. Samantha broke her hip, and Trent stopped working to care for her. “The company I was with said ‘you’re going to have to choose between family and work.’ I chose family.”
Soon, they ran out of money. So the family came back to Family Promise in early 2016.
“This place is great – it’s like a God-send,” Samantha said. “When you have nowhere else to go, everyone is there for you – emotionally, physically, financially.”
“It’s nice when you want to push forward, and then there’s someone right there helping you do it,” Trent said.
The family recently moved into a two-bedroom apartment through a transitional housing program at Joshua Station, which facilitates case management and long-term support.
“Both Family Promise and Joshua Station are about discipline and structure,” Samantha said. “You need that in your life – if you don’t have it, you’re lost.”
Trent’s also working in construction, something he’s done since he was 12. “In elementary school, I would run home … and I would watch my dad working on our house. I liked seeing the progress he made.”
The families loved the volunteers at the churches they stayed in and always felt supported as they worked toward a brighter future.
“Whether we had a little problem or a massive problem, you guys would help us find a way to fix it,” Trent said. “You guys are hands on. You have more resources.”
The family has journeyed a long way.
“When you initially become homeless, you’re shocked … you’ve been living a certain way for so long and you don’t think something like this could happen. You walk around in a state of confusion: Before I came in, I had no idea what to do,” Trent said. “But when we came into Family Promise, that feeling started to go away. You feel organized, and you have a sense of control. And you feel motivated.”
Long-term, Trent would like to use his carpenter skills to build a house in the mountains for the family. “We came here at our lowest point ever, and you all made it go away,” he said.
Shy and Jay
Shy knew that she couldn’t stay in California.
“California is so hard for a single mom to have everything she needs, so I decided to seek opportunity in Colorado,” she said. “But my housing didn’t work out so I was on the streets.”
Shy called the 2-1-1 resource center at Mile High United Way, and the referral line directed her to us.
“Family Promise was the first number I called. I just got a rundown on the program,” she said. “The next day, I was accepted into the program – it happened really quickly, so I was really excited about that.”
At first, Shy was lost: “I had never been homeless before. I didn’t know how everything was going to work. There were just a lot of things going through my head.”
Every year, Family Promise serves an average of 70 families experiencing homelessness The other families in the program made Shy feel right at home.
“Everyone was there for a different reason – something bad just happened to them at the wrong time. The families and volunteers were all very welcoming,” she said. “It really exceeded my expectations just to have our own room at the church, and a big room at that, and good food and somewhere to sleep. I was relieved.”
Even her 4-year-old son, Jay, felt comfortable: “My son just saw it as a big slumber party,” Shy said.
Shy worked with her Family Promise case manager, Mandy Garman, to move into stable housing with employment and savings.
“I liked the structure of the program. Mandy kept me really focused,” she said. “It was hard to try to manage my personal things without having income until I found out about government programs. Mandy helped me a lot – she helped point me toward resources.”
Shy connected with housing assistance through the Bannock Youth and Family Center, a program of Volunteers of America.
“Once I reached out to Bannock, I had a voucher within a week and a half,” she said. “The main thing is you have to search for an apartment within the price range and bedrooms they give you. I came at the right time.”
Shy is now working with three staffing agencies and expecting twins.
“Being in California, I didn’t have help or support. I was on my own. You all were my family,” she said. “The things that I wanted in life are the things you helped me get. It’s something I will never forget – there are people out there who will help you.”
And Shy sees Colorado differently now: “It actually feels like home now – I’m happy here.”
A New Song
Jerett, Faith and their 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, are always singing.
“It’s just something we do,” Jerett said.
Their tunes about life and everyday routines filled the Day Site during their stay with Family Promise, brightening every space. The family recently moved into their own apartment after two months in the program late last year.
“We just felt safe. The churches are more home-like. You’ve got your own little area – usually a room with a door. Most of them have showers. Good meals,” Faith said. “The thing I like most about it is the volunteers don’t do it for a paycheck. They’re incredible.”
“It’s a safe environment compared to some shelters,” Jerett said. “It’s just safer in general; more homey.”
The family recently moved from transitional housing and needed a little more time to save and get back on their feet. Both Faith and Jerett work in the hospitality industry, and their new home has a kitchen with more room to cook.
“Our new place has lots of sun and lots of space compared to what we’re used to,” Faith said, smiling. “The kitchen’s awesome. I can’t wait to make lasagna.”
The family is even planning to start a food cart – a long-time dream.
“We’re going to have fish and chips and hand-held soup to go, but the first thing we’re going to do is get a kettle corn machine,” Faith said after connecting with a Family Promise volunteer regarding tips for launching a business. “You all have people come through here and help you accomplish your goals.”
“And you guys actually do everything you can to help us find housing. Everybody cares here and doesn’t treat us like second-class citizens just because we’re homeless,” Jerett said. “You guys gave us that extra bit of time to get going and made it so we didn’t have to worry about anything else but finding a place since we were already working. You can potentially save everything you earn.”
Now Olivia can’t wait to play with her new neighbors and Jack, the family dog who joined them in their apartment.
“I asked my parents if we could run in the halls. There are even other kids at the apartment place.” she said. “We have a key and everything, like a real home. And a lot of people already have dogs.”
DeAun and her 7-year-old son, Myles, left Family Promise in October 2014, and haven’t stopped thriving!
The family is graduating from transitional housing at Champa House after one year in the program and moving into an apartment two miles from DeAun’s job.
“I had no intention of graduating from Champa early, but this opportunity came up,” she said. “I’ll be renting a condo for a great price. It’s so cute.”
She will even receive a car as a graduation present: “It’s a 2002 Toyota Highlander. Gold.”
DeAun is now working at Inside/Out Ministries, an area organization focused on helping individuals transition from prison to a stable life on the outside.
The nonprofit is faith-based, which has a deep connection to DeAun’s beliefs.
“My spiritual growth has saved me – I’ve had this bad attitude all my life, and obviously, that didn’t get me very far,” she said. “But once I gave it all away and trusted God, life came together. Blind faith is scary, but it’s all working out.”
DeAun also credits community support for her success.
“The most exciting part of it is realizing that anything’s possible – that I can overcome. I love seeing where I was and how far I’ve come and where I’m going,” she said. “Having support and encouragement in a program like Champa, and just being loved and having their arms wrapped around you, and their healing, I could accomplish what I needed to accomplish and move on.”
Read about DeAun’s story when she left Family Promise!
Tanya and her three boys had nowhere else to go.
“I lost my house because my kids’ dad got me kicked out,” Tanya said. “I stayed with my best friend for about nine months and then I got resources, heard about Family Promise, and put myself on the shelter wait list.”
The single mom didn’t have a positive view of shelters.
“I was a little scared because I didn’t know what to expect – I thought being in a shelter meant being in a big room with all kinds of homeless people,” she said. “But then when I came in and saw the environment we were going to be in and saw the people we were going to be around, it made me feel like I was safe and my kids were too.”
Tanya and her sons, Nehemiah (13), Dominic (9) and Angelo (8), bonded with the Family Promise team and volunteers.
“They were very caring and very interested in how we were doing as a family,” she said.
Now Tanya is working at a Denver law firm and training to be a paralegal. “I’m putting my degree to good use – I have an associate degree in criminal justice,” she said.
The family also moved into their own apartment through a rental assistance program at Family Homestead. Their new home is around the corner from Tanya’s work.
“We’ve been waiting so long, but we finally have a place of our own,” she said. “Our own home means my boys are able to have a place where they feel comfortable. They can feel safe.”
And it all happened just in time for the holidays.
“We’re very happy being in our home, and it’s actually kind of a Christmas present for all of us knowing that we got in before Christmas,” Tanya said.
Mackenzie never expected this.
“I never thought I would be homeless. One day, I came into work, and I left without a job. We had been homeless since November,” Mackenzie said. “I was able to pay my rent for a couple months with what I had in savings, and that was it.”
She and her 4-year-old son, Konstantin, found Family Promise last summer.
“I was googling places because we were talking with a lot of people, and there were a lot of people who wouldn’t take us because we weren’t married,” she said. “You were our last hope, honestly.”
The family had stayed with relatives after Mackenzie lost her job, but it wasn’t a long-term solution.
“I stayed with my mom, and then that didn’t work,” she said. “Being kicked out in the middle of winter hit us real hard. I didn’t have a job. It was cold. My family booted me out for no reason, and I didn’t have place to go.”
Mackenzie and her family moved from there to a friend’s place: “We were staying with friends for a month, but it was an uncomfortable situation. It caused a lot of problems,” she said. “So we were just sleeping in the car.”
When they arrived at Family Promise, they immediately felt comfortable.
“I was surprised by how homey it was – coming in, we thought we would just be in one big room with sleeping bags on the floor,” Mackenzie said. “We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of privacy we had and how much it felt like home at all of the churches we stayed at.”
Family Promise was different from anything the family expected.
“The volunteers were always willing to give ideas and help. It was so sweet,” Mackenzie said. “We just felt super welcome. And Sarai, our case manager, was great and just real.”
The family recently received a voucher for rental assistance through Bannock Youth Center and moved into their own apartment in Lakewood.
“It’s two bedrooms so Konstantin has his own space, which he needs at his age,” Mackenzie said. “It’s nice and clean. The neighbors are great.”
Mackenzie also worked while she was at Family Promise.
“I feel employers should care about what their employees are going through,” she said. “Family Promise gave us a safe place to be, where we could get real sleep, which really helped. You can’t function properly at work without that …”
Mackenzie now gives back through Volunteers of America and the Bannock Youth Center, helping young mothers in challenging situations.
Family Promise helped Mackenzie and her family, but they found a place in our hearts.
“I’m going to miss you guys … you guys made us feel like human beings – you guys didn’t make us feel like less than that because we were homeless,” Mackenzie said. “Family Promise was a happy time. We definitely got to meet a lot of different people who we will probably be friends with for a very long time.”
And the family has a bright future.
“I feel a lot stronger because of this experience,” Mackenzie said. “I feel more prepared to save money so if things do happen, we’re not going to be back in the position where we’re homeless again.”
Brittany and her sons, Jamir and Josiah, just needed a little extra support.
“We had family issues – I had to go to a shelter,” she said. “We were at another shelter before Family Promise – we were there for 12 nights, and it was really rough and hard. I had a lack of support, lack of food and lack of money.”
Brittany called Family Promise when her stay ended at the first shelter.
“When I got to the Day Site, I thought it was very nice and clean and something good for the kids,” she said. “Family Promise is geared toward the kids and stability, which is what we needed.”
Brittany and her family stayed with congregational partners throughout the metro area.
“The kids were happy about the churches – all of the people were very nice, and open, and supportive,” she said.
Brittany especially valued the Family Promise Day Site and home-cooked meals at the congregations.
“I was surprised by how many churches are involved in helping homelessness,” she said. “Not only did they have dinners, but they had dessert!”
The family participated in weekly case management while they were in the program and moved into transitional housing through a Family Promise connection to Community Housing Partners.
Brittany was also able to fill her house with donations.
“I received a house full of furniture – everything from pots and pans to beds and sheets from House of Light,” she said. “I was just amazed.”
Now, she’s working for a plasma center and starting a new job at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in the fall. Additionally, Brittany’s on the path to home ownership.
“I love Community Housing Partners … they encouraged me to apply for Habitat for Humanity to move toward home ownership,” she said. “My goal is to pay off debt so I’m eligible for the Habitat program next year!”
The Power Of Community
Joella was balancing life as a single mom when she arrived at Family Promise.
Her housing was uncertain, and her oldest son was involved in an accident that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.
“He had a lot of medical issues that caused me to lose my place,” Joella said. “That’s what happened, and I had to move.”
She entered the program early in the year and was excited to have her own room with her youngest son, Marcelino.
“I loved it. I think what stood out for me was having our own privacy,” Joella said. “I think that’s important — not just for me, but for everybody. Families are going through so much, and it’s nice that they have their own space in the churches where they stay.
“I like that the program is focused on families – volunteers do stuff with the parents and the children. The children are a big part of everything.”
Twenty-six partner congregations take turns converting Sunday-school rooms and meeting space into bedrooms for an average of 70 homeless families a year.
“As far as the dinners, volunteers go out of their way to actually help us,” Joella said. “They cook home-cooked meals, and we just get to relax.”
Joella was working when she arrived at Family Promise and recently transitioned to a new opportunity in the pharmaceutical industry. The family also moved into their own duplex.
“My employer never knew what I was going through,” she said. “If it wasn’t for Family Promise, I would have struggled a lot more to get back on my feet because if you don’t have stability, it’s two times harder. If you don’t have the ability to eat and stay somewhere, what do you do?”
(Above: Beth’s 4-year-old daughter, Milani, and 12-year-old son, Preston.)
Beth and her children, Preston and Milani, found Family Promise last spring. From the beginning, they felt supported.
“I like the different resources that my case manager, Sarai, and the staff had,” Beth said. “Just having a case manager at your side is like having an advocate.”
Beth said she and the other program guests even felt like family.
“I thought Family Promise was wonderful – the volunteers were also very motivating,” she said.
Before the program, Beth and her family had been staying with a relative.
“But that didn’t work out,” she said. “I spent all of my money on hotels; after my money ran out, I had to go somewhere elsewhere.”
She thought a shelter would be a cold environment. “But it was more like home. Everyone was friendly. I felt at ease.”
Beth and her children received a voucher for rental assistance through Stride and moved into a three-bedroom home in Lakewood after three months at Family Promise.
“Our own home means a lot. It has been so long since we’ve been in our house – it’s nice just to have our own time together,” she said. “Milani even has her own room now, which is something she has never had before – she says no boys are allowed in, not even her brother.”
Beth recently interviewed for a job in the finance industry. Staying at Family Promise changed her perspective.
“I think I have a better outlook on life, for one,” she said. “We will never be where we were before.”
The Next Chapter
Natalie always wanted to make Colorado her home.
“We wanted to start over, and I’ve always wanted to move to Denver since I was little,” she said.
But when she, Ray, and their 8-year-old son, Luke, relocated to the city, they were unprepared for the Denver area’s lack of affordable housing.
“When we moved from Texas, we thought it would be like Texas,” she said. “We didn’t realize rent would be so expensive.”
The family stayed with Family Promise this year and moved into their own home a few weeks later.
“We moved to an apartment in Denver,” Natalie said. “Just in the little time we were at Family Promise, we were able to save for a deposit and still have money for bills.”
Now, she is working at an apartment community and Ray is employed at a senior-care facility. Family Promise offered the temporary support they needed to be self-sufficient.
“It was an amazing program – it really helped us a lot. The rules and the requirements were doable,” she said. “The volunteers were extremely friendly, and I loved the fact that we got to stay together as a family. Everyone was motivating.”
And Natalie is living her dream.
“My favorite part about Colorado is I get to see the mountains in the background every day,” she said. “There’s so much potential to grow and have things here. Without Family Promise, we wouldn’t have been able to make it.”
(Above: Marquita’s 9-year-old son, Royal, and 1-year-old daughter, Ca’Lea.)
The H Family
Marquita and her two children now have somewhere to call home.
The family of three stayed with Family Promise before transitioning into a housing program with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless this spring.
“Our new house is beautiful – it’s over the top,” she said. “I have beautiful, hardwood floors – it’s two stories. My daughter loves it because she likes climbing up and down the stairs.”
Marquita wasn’t sure if she would be comfortable staying in different congregations while she was at Family Promise.
“When you hear about having to move every week, it kind of discourages you from the program, but then you realize it’s not that serious,” she said. “I enjoyed the program because of the simple fact that you get to meet new people.”
Family Promise partners with 26 congregations that provide shelter and meals to families for a week at a time throughout their two to three months in the program. Teams of volunteers care for families and move their belongings each week.
“The program’s focus on goals such as employment and housing makes everything manageable. It’s just about being proactive and ambitious,” Marquita said. “And all of the volunteers went over the top … they were always ready and willing to help. They even had a vast array of everything you could ever want for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Marquita also enjoyed the relationship with her Family Promise case manager, Mandy Garman.
“I would love to give Mandy a ‘Case Manager of the Year’ award. She is awesome. She really listened and always tried to lift our spirits. She would give us resources whenever we needed them. Just so incredible.”
Marquita is now part of a work-study program at Community College of Denver. She will graduate with her associate degree in May 2017!
A Safe Haven
Mona and Ward were just looking for somewhere safe.
“We couldn’t stay where we were staying anymore. I had been looking for places to go,” Mona said. “My daughter’s school called you guys – you guys had the only shelter opening, so really, I believe God sent us to you. Faith brought us to you.”
The couple and their 7-year-old daughter, Zariah, arrived at Family Promise last fall.
“I felt welcomed. I felt relief because we were someplace safe, mainly for my daughter,” Mona said. “All of it was helpful; I was thankful. The church volunteers made us feel welcome.”
The family could finally focus on their future. After a few weeks, Ward found a job as a machine operator and Mona started working in security before they moved into a new home in Commerce City.
“Every day, I was looking for some place to live. Our case manager at Family Promise connected us with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless,” Mona said. “They gave us a housing voucher and we’re still working with them on case management and therapy.”
Mona said the Family Promise program changed her. “You can’t ever, ever, ever let go of hope. If you don’t have hope, what have you got? When you say you don’t have hope anymore, you give up on yourself.”
The family’s now closer, looking forward to a new life.
“This experience brought us together as a family unit. We bonded. We made a connection that we didn’t have before. I’m grateful for everything that happened. You guys helped us in a way a family would.”
The Next Step
DeAun had big dreams when she moved from Washington, but things didn’t go as planned.
“My job and housing all fell through in one day, and I was homeless,” she said. “I stayed in a hotel for three days and came across Family Promise.”
DeAun and her 6-year-old son, Myles (above), entered the program in September.
“It was a wonderful experience. Very resourceful,” she said. “Case management is awesome. You guys encourage us to work on our goals and be self-sufficient.”
DeAun was surprised by Denver’s lack of affordable housing.
“I never thought housing would be a concern,” she said. “I knew Denver was going to be a little more expensive, but I had a plan, and it didn’t work out.”
DeAun recently moved into Champa House, a long-term transitional program through the Denver Rescue Mission. She’s also working with a temporary placement agency and expects to work in customer service or human resources in the coming months.
“Everyone at Family Promise wraps their arms around you and supports you,” she said. “The bottom line is you have a warm place, hot meals and you’re OK. The program’s worth it!”
Elisa can’t stop smiling about her family’s new house.
“There’s a backyard, and the kids even have their own bathroom,” she said.
Elisa, her husband and their three children arrived at Family Promise in September, and they moved into their new home just after Christmas.
“We came from California with a Section 8 housing voucher. A friend of mine said we could stay with her, but she changed her mind, and that’s how we became homeless,” she said. “We stayed in hotels and shelters, and we kept calling Family Promise every day.”
The family found their new house through another voucher tied to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
“It took us a couple months. It’s hard to find the places that want to work with you,” Elisa said. “Landlords see such a demand – it’s hard to find the price range and the area you know you want to be in.”
But she and her family are a success story.
“We have the key. We met the neighbors. It’s just a dream,” she said.
Elisa’s husband also began working while at Family Promise, and their 6- and 5-year-old went back to school.
“You all gave us the security for my husband to go back to work. He knew I was in a safe place,” she said. “Two kids are in school and my youngest is getting developmental therapy through Child Find/Rocky Mountain Youth Services.”
She said the Family Promise environment helped her succeed.
“The experience of being homeless took us all of the way down. We either had to keep chasing around the mountain or go straight up. We went straight up. And at the top, you have things waiting for you,” Elisa said. “You all gave us a stable place. You all helped us with everything. You all have given us so much. So much hope. So much everything.
“You all care. That’s what makes a difference. You all are that ear that we need without someone always saying ‘no.’ My case managers even went with me to the open house to rent our new home.”
Elisa’s family also enjoyed staying at congregations in the program.
“The churches are fun. The volunteers actually care,” she said. “I even met someone who knew my mom in Maryland. They’re really cool. They really open up their hearts. They really want you to succeed.
“Sometimes it’s hard to move every Sunday, but we think of it as an experience because you get to meet different people every week.”
Elisa is planning to obtain a daycare license and provide free childcare to other families in need.
“You all gave us comfort and stability,” she said. “When you’ve got all of these people in your corner, you cannot fail.
“You all know how hard to push. You all tell us ‘don’t give up.’ I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And if it goes out, I’m going to light it again!”
(Above: Former Executive Director Jolynn Snyder with Carmen and her daughters.)
A New Path
Carmen Jones had nowhere to go.
“I’ve been in Denver for 14 years. I had housing. I had Section 8, but I made a mistake and let friends stay with me, which caused me to lose the housing voucher,” she said. “We had to stay with another friend before living in a hotel at $485 a week.”
She wasn’t able to keep up with costs.
“So I found Family Promise. I couldn’t afford a hotel and try to save for an apartment,” Carmen said. “There were no spaces at shelters in Aurora, and it was hard to find a program that would accept Arapahoe County residents. It was nice to hear ‘we’ll take you – we’re here to help.’”
Carmen now has savings! She also arrived at Family Promise with employment.
“I was already working for a home health care company. It had been two years with them, and I was only at 25 hours, but was able to move to full time while I was at Family Promise,” she said. “My boss said she would give me more hours because of my situation.”
Carmen said it was sometimes hard to move from congregation to congregation while she was in the program, but the weekly transition was worth it.
“Family Promise has a lot of benefits. I wouldn’t have been able to save without the program, and the housing resources were very helpful,” she said. “I also loved the Life Skills classes – especially the budgeting and parenting classes. I hope I have classes like that where I go.”
Carmen and her two teenage daughters moved into a long-term program at the Father Ed Judy House. She plans to earn her CNA healthcare license and keep saving for the next step.
“Eventually, I would love to be able to find a two-bedroom apartment,” she said, smiling.
The J Family
Erin J. is overwhelmed with joy.
“We just got our Stride voucher for housing, and my sister pulled together this donation network called ‘Operation Erin.’ People just started dropping things off,” she said. “I’m so overwhelmed and crying a lot – happy tears.”
Erin and her three sons just moved into a three-bedroom condo in Lakewood after staying with Family Promise over the summer. They were homeless after a family breakup.
“I came to Family Promise after a family separation, but I would have to say that out of all the programs I’ve been in, Family Promise is one of the best,” she said. “The volunteers and staff are very interested in you. I met a lot of people I keep in contact with – it didn’t feel like a shelter.
“Everyone who volunteers does it because they care.”
Now, Erin works as a service advisor at Pep Boys. “I love it. It’s awesome,” she said.
She and her 9-year-old and twin 7-year-olds also feel at home after all of the community support.
“People have donated every single thing in the whole world – spices, food, furniture, clothes, lamps, a cappuccino machine, toilet paper, TVs, beds – even a Christmas tree,” she said. “Everything you could possibly imagine.”
The Journey Home
Athena and her two teenage daughters found Family Promise in fall 2013.
“I had to quit my job. It was just too far to commute. And we lost the place we were staying at over the summer,” Athena said. Once we arrived at Family Promise, I just focused on getting back on my feet again.”
She applied to jobs every day, eventually moving into a lead role in human resources at Kmart.
“I’m still there, and I’m also an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay,” Athena said. “We live in Brighton, and now I’m engaged.
“A lot has happened in a year,” she said, smiling.
“I loved working with Mandy and everyone at Family Promise. A lot of the program you have to really do on your own – you have to get out there,” Athena said. “And that’s understandable because it teaches you to be self-sufficient. You have to put a lot of the footwork in. You just have to keep pressing forward.”
She said the experience changed her.
“It taught me a lot about myself and my inner strength. I just would like to thank everyone. The volunteers and all of the staff – without them, we wouldn’t have had anywhere to go at the time.
“Words can’t express the opportunity that was given to us.”
A Grandmother’s Love
The T Family arrived at Family Promise in June 2014.
Aileen left everything to raise her grandchildren, Jeremiah and Brooke, and the decision left her homeless.
“Family Promise has helped a lot by being supportive of us and helping me get custody of my grandchildren,” she said. “The program has made me a different person. I actually look forward to going on with life now.”
After a few weeks, Aileen began taking computer classes, working on her resume and looking toward the future. Both of her grandchildren are in school, and the family recently moved into the First Step program at Warren Village.
“First Step is going to help me get my GED. Then I can get a part-time job and hopefully we can get our own place after that,” she said.
Aileen said Family Promise was a big part of her journey.
“I think it was God who brought us here. I prayed and prayed and this was the answer. The congregations we stayed at were amazing – I gained about 30 pounds. The dinners were great,” she said, laughing.
“This is the best place we’ve ever been,” Jeremiah said.
“Family Promise has really helped us,” Aileen said. “Everything seems brighter.”
The E Family: Starting Over
Kevin, NaaAdoley and their two sons, Kevin Jr., and Kaeden, moved to Denver earlier this year.
“We came here for opportunity,” Kevin said. “We wanted to start a new life.”
They stayed in hotels for the first few nights, but things didn’t go as planned.
“We weren’t getting approved for apartments and then we wrecked the car,” he said. “We got in contact with Denver Human Services and found Family Promise.”
Kevin said the family valued the experience of staying at different congregations while they were in the program.
“It was almost like a vacation because we were swept off our feet. Everyone was so welcoming and suddenly we had help with transportation and didn’t have to worry about food or shelter,” he said. “It was helpful to also be around volunteers who like serving others. We like to live our lives in service.”
“I got used to meals being served and now I have to do my own cooking,” NaaAdoley said, laughing.
She said the program’s structure also helped.
“You have program guidelines, and then you have the human side of things. All adults are required to work, but the Family Promise staff was understanding while I looked for jobs and homeschooled our boys,” NaaAdoley said. “I feel like the program works. It allows you to be accountable for your own actions. You leave the congregations you’re staying at by 7 a.m. every morning, so you’re motivated to do something during the day. That’s the kind of structure a family in our situation needed.”
Because Family Promise provides case management and basic resources, she said it was also easier for the family to focus on employment, housing and their next steps.
“We’ve been through enough to know that today’s society kicks when you’re down. We weren’t treated like that at Family Promise,” Kevin said.
“We were treated with respect,” NaaAdoley. “It was a real relationship with the staff and volunteers.”
Kevin said that relationship helped him wake up early and leave for a new construction job every morning, feeling comfortable that his family was safe at the congregations.
Family Promise supporters even donated a bike to help him commute to work.
“There was a difference. You could tell people cared,” NaaAdoley said. “It’s not always like that at homeless shelters.”
“Everything started with education,” Kevin said. “The Family Promise staff even inspired my own business. That counsel was a big plus. It was awesomeness. I was always helped.”
The family moved into a transitional townhome with Community Housing Partners in the spring. They said their move to Colorado presented countless challenges, but brought them closer together.
“Family Promise is definitely a big part of our success,” NaaAdoley said.
“It was our only option when it came down to where we were going to go,” Kevin said. “If you want to work on yourself, Family Promise will give you that opportunity. Thank God for Family Promise.
“What was important to us, was important to Family Promise. Homeless families sometimes have a need for haircuts or other resources, and the staff always took care of that. It wasn’t a systematic shelter system. They kept our family together.”
Keith and Zowie
Colorado marked the beginning of a new life for Keith S. and his six-year-old daughter, Zowie.
“I moved to Denver to continue my education last year, and I was using my benefits as an Army veteran to do it,” Keith said. “For the most part, that went well, and my first four months in Denver seemed to be OK. But when the government shutdown happened, that stopped my college funding. That’s also what I was living on.”
So Keith started looking for a job, but he didn’t have what he needed to cover rent.
“My landlord helped me with a good reference for the future, but obviously, I couldn’t stay for free. My educational funding was delayed for three and a half months, but I had already left college when it finally arrived again,” he said. “I found a month-to-month place but was forced to move from hotel to hotel and then shelter to shelter.
“I was driving a cab and working construction to try to make money, but it wasn’t enough.”
Keith said life changed so quickly. He was homeless, but eventually found a job as a project manager in the construction industry.
“I discovered Family Promise because the organization supported my work schedule. When I arrived at the first congregation we stayed at, I was used to the sterile shelter system. But I knew within the first week at Family Promise that it was going to be different,” he said. “Everyone genuinely cared, and we weren’t part of a systematic process that tried to rush us through their shelter program as quickly as possible.”
Within weeks, Keith was promoted at work. He and Zowie also moved into their own apartment.
“I was able to buy a truck, continue working and bring on another Family Promise guest to help with construction projects,” he said. “Now I have time to work toward my goals. I was a single dad, and without Family Promise, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“Sometimes I was even too tired to cook dinner after a day of work, but they took care of that too.”
Family Promise partners with more than 60 congregations to house homeless families in the metro area.
“In my opinion, Family Promise is effective because of those partnerships. Instead of just one shelter location, the program partners with the community, and that generates so many dedicated volunteers,” Keith said. “When I told Zowie we were getting a place of our own, she said ‘why daddy? I want to stay at the churches.’”
Keith said a big part of her affection for the program comes from its family environment.
“Even if you have differences between families, they tend to come together like a family themselves,” he said. “After we all leave the program, we will still need each other. Families will still babysit for one another. We’ll stay in touch, like one big family.”