With the rate of homeless students at Forsyth County Schools remaining about the same between this year and last, Family Promise of Forsyth County continues to make an impact in the lives of local families.
According to Kim Bolivar, homeless education liaison for FCS, at the end of this school year, there were 599 students who met the federal educational definition of homelessness and a minimum of 55 foster care students, some of whom would have met the definition had the state’s foster care system not split off from the program in December.
Last year, FCS had 633, which included the foster care students.
While Bolivar could not confirm whether any of the students and their families participated in Family Promise’s program, Jacob Granados, executive director of the organization, said as of early June, seven families had been helped.
“One of [those families] finished the program successfully,” he said. “Some of others have left prematurely but are doing well given the resources and experience we’ve provided them, and we have seen improvements for all of our families, whether it be children in school or parents at work.
“The one more traditional graduate — we’re really proud of her and how she’s been handling herself after completion of the program.”
Family Promise of Forsyth County, which began accepting families into its inaugural program in October, is an offshoot of the national faith-based nonprofit dedicated to ending family homelessness.
Although the local organization is non-denominational, 13 churches are signed on to house participating families for a week at a time on a rotating basis. Participants are served meals at the host church, which are prepared and served by volunteers.
Cumming First United Methodist Church housed the first families from Oct. 2-8, who were then moved to the next host church. The process continues for as long as families remain in the program.
Granados said despite facing challenges in its first eight months, the program, in general, has been a success.
“As a new program building and learning the process, there have been learning curves that we’ve had to master,” he said. “We’ve had some learning experiences we’re building on now to make for a more successful future.
“Going forward, we’ll be focusing more on case management to make sure that we’re providing the best tools for families to help them be the most successful as they can be.”
Granados said the organization has already made several changes.
When it first started, families were referred by school social workers.
The organization then chose the families who fit the program criteria and conducted a series of interviews.
Once admitted, after 30 days, families were required to demonstrate progress to continue, with their maximum time in the program capped at 90 days.
Granados said while the first steps remain the same, the 90-day cap has been removed.
“We’ve realized that setting a sure cutoff date is difficult straight across the board,” he said. “The family situation, job, how much families save, the affordable housing in area and other factors all determine the length [families] need to be in the program. We try to strive for 90 days but take into account all the factors to make families the most successful they can be.”
He said Family Promise still has needs moving forward.
“We’re looking for volunteers who can help us in the day center, volunteer drivers to help keep expenses down and others,” he said. “We’re also looking forward to our 5K on July 4.”
For more information or to volunteer, visit FamilyPromiseOfForsythCounty.org.