Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Lisa, a working mother and full-time college student, was involved in a serious car accident last year. This set into motion a domino effect of bad fortune. Unable to drive, she couldn’t get to work. Not working meant no income, so she couldn’t pay rent. She and her two daughters eventually found themselves living on the streets.
Desperate to turn things around, Lisa connected with Family Promise of Hendricks County, whose mission is to help homeless individuals overcome barriers that keep them from obtaining employment and, by extension, permanent housing. According to Stacy Schilling, director of the program, some of those barriers include lack of childcare, limited transportation options, and poor credit.
Family Promise of Hendricks County, located north of the Avon Washington Township Library on Ind. 267, partners with local organizations to assist families with basic necessities for up to 90 days.
On average, the wait list is approximately 12 families, though as many as 27 have been on the list at any particular time. Open since March 2015, Family Promise has assisted 22 families.
“Homelessness in Avon is very much a hidden population,” says Schilling. “But if you look for it, you’ll often find it.”
In fact, over 200 school-aged children in Hendricks County are currently homeless. Schilling acknowledges that families can be reluctant to seek help due to shame or fear. In these cases, they will stay with friends, sleep in their car, or bunk outdoors, weather permitting. The problem is, such methods cannot be sustained indefinitely.
Family Promise of Hendricks County currently partners with 22 organizations. Some of those arrange for temporary housing and others provide meals and other services.
“It’s a hodgepodge of set-ups, but it all comes together,” Schilling says.
The Family Promise model relies on its partnerships with churches, clubs, medical facilities, school systems, and police departments. Hendricks Regional Health, in particular, has acted as a host site and has sponsored many of the program’s events.
“This community is so giving,” says Schilling. “We’ve found that if people can lend a hand, they often do.”
For example, high school students have pitched in to landscape and decorate the resource center, barbers have cut hair at no charge, photographers have provided free Mother’s Day photo packages, and community members have answered phones, donated meals, and arranged transportation for those needing rides to and from job interviews.
Family Promise also partners with Woodforest National Bank, whose branch manager teaches weekly budgeting skills and financial literacy classes.
“We don’t focus on past debt, broken credit, or evictions, but we do help our families process what happened to get them to this place,” says Schilling. “We do this because there’s a fragile chain of command where if one thing breaks, they’re back to being homeless.”
When the facility opened in the spring, Schilling says there were questions about how to best communicate with those needing assistance.
“You can’t teach someone how to swim when they’re drowning,” says Schilling. “When families are in crisis, throwing everything at them at once only serves to overwhelm them.”
Every 30 days, a case worker re-evaluates a family’s progress to assess what they’ve accomplished and to help outline plans for the future.
“Setting goals and improving accountability empowers families,” Schilling says.
Ultimately, Lisa found permanent housing and landed a job and she recently graduated from college.
“Last week she stopped by the office and was absolutely glowing,” says Schilling. “She persevered, and that’s why we’re here.”
For more information about Family Promise of Hendricks County, call (317) 296-3742 or visit its website at familypromisehendrickscounty.org/.