Family Promise of Hendricks County Gives Families Fresh Hope
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
As a survivor of domestic abuse, Alicia Qualls knows what it’s like to hit rock bottom. At one point she had a gun to her head and was ready to end it all. For more than a decade she experienced homelessness, which added to her stress.
“The street alone will kill you,” she says. Hope came by way of the dedicated team at Family Promise of Hendricks County, whose mission is to help the homeless and do their part to prevent homelessness so families can achieve sustainable independence.
The staff at Family Promise moved quickly to help Qualls and her three children when they were in need. Now, for the first time, this family has a place of their own.
“Everybody at Family Promise is amazing,” Qualls says. “Now I’m stress-free because I don’t have to worry about food or rent.”
Family Promise originally started in 2015 as a shelter program that helped between 20 and 25 families per year. It soon became clear, however, that the homeless problem was much larger than what they had anticipated.
“It was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the need in our community,” says Executive Director Julie Randall. Over time they have expanded their services, and in 2021 alone they assisted more than 2,000 families. Three years ago they moved from their Avon resource center to the State Bank of Lizton Resource Center in Plainfield. They have a second center in Brownsburg. These centers allow people to eat, shower and get warm.
State Bank chose to partner with Family Promise because as a community bank, they recognized the opportunity to come alongside an organization focused holistically on ending homelessness in our counties.
“They addressed underlying issues like lack of child care or reliable transportation, no permanent address when applying for jobs, and financial management skills, while at the same time providing shelter, food and clothing,” says Diane Stennett, senior vice president at State Bank. “When Family Promise was looking to relocate their resource center to Plainfield, we knew that supporting them financially would make a direct, deep and lasting impact on families in our community.”
Last year Family Promise helped 105 families living in their cars, tents or emergency shelters, moving them into permanent housing. The staff works with landlords and property managers to create more housing in the community.
“We believe everyone should have a home they can afford and opportunities for economic stability,” Randall says.
Family Promise also works to prevent homelessness through rent assistance, utility assistance and stability services. In 2021 Family Promise prevented homelessness for 585 families who were about to be evicted.
“We stepped in and helped them reverse that course,” Randall says.
For some that meant helping to pay the rent, shoring up a budget or repairing a car in order to get to work.
“It’s all about keeping stability in their lives because nothing sticks unless there’s stability,” Randall says.
Stability comes in the form of providing transportation and/or car repair. Family Promise also has their own child-care center where all homeless kids can go for free (lower-income individuals are on a sliding scale). Currently they can take 45 children, but they are soon expanding to 75.
Family Promise has a program called the Stability Builders Network, which consists of a group of churches, businesses, nonprofits, local government entities and individuals that all pool their resources to make a difference. If someone is behind two months in rent payments, for example, Family Promise can pull from the Stability Builders Network to pay that fee.
Randall notes that many people in the community don’t understand the homelessness problem in Hendricks County because they don’t see panhandlers in parking lots or folks pushing shopping carts down the street.
“It’s hidden here because people are living in cars, hotels or homeless shelters,” says Randall, who has worked as a social worker for 25 years and seen many well-intentioned endeavors fail.
“We don’t want to keep putting Band-aids on problems,” she says. “We want to create solutions,” she says. “When you focus on what people who are struggling are telling you they need, and create solutions based on how they view those needs, the community becomes a part of the solution that really works.”
Stennett is thrilled to partner with Family Promise because their values are perfectly aligned.
“Like us, Family Promise believes in relationships,” Stennett says. “The bank isn’t just another financial donor and families there are not just transitioning residents. Julie and her team make sure it’s clear that once you’re involved, you’re forever a part of the Family Promise family. For us, that means sitting down each year to determine how our organization and our employees can make the greatest impact. Sometimes our staff volunteers time, providing financial workshops and counseling. Other times we provide meals, child care, or collect diapers and personal-care items. Whatever the avenue, we know that our giving stays local and benefits our neighbors, and that feels good.”
According to Randall, in Hendricks County there are four main barriers that create and perpetuate homelessness and poverty, including lack of reliable transportation for work, appointments and other tasks, lack of affordable child care, lack of living-wage jobs for supporting a family, and lack of affordable housing.
“We mustn’t be afraid when our towns want to allow developments that are affordable in our community because we aren’t bringing people in who are going to deteriorate our community,” Randall says. “These affordable-housing complexes are about helping the people who live here have housing they can actually afford.”
Those with an eviction or a criminal record often won’t find housing in the local community, because there are so many people who do qualify and who don’t have those barriers.
Family Promise provides servicing and housing for domestic violence survivors. They also help people with chronic mental illnesses or substance-use disorder, and those who have formerly been incarcerated.
“Those are the hardest people to house because of those barriers, but we want to make sure that everyone has a home, including those people that are often marginalized,” Randall says. “We want them to have the opportunity for stability too.”
Once families move into permanent housing, Family Promise follows up with them for a couple of years to make sure they remain stable.
“That’s the key to their success, that we don’t just go away,” Randall says. “We continue to provide services and check in with them.”
Qualls is forever grateful to Family Promise.
“If not for them, I’d still be treading water trying to figure out what to do,” she says.
The State Bank of Lizton Resource Center is located at 238 North Vine Street in Plainfield. The Brownsburg Resource Center is located at 725 South Green Street in Brownsburg. For more information, call 317-296-3742 or 317-852-1019, or visit familypromisehendrickscounty.org.