When Family Promise of Brevard launched more than a decade ago, there were 1,000 homeless students living on the Space Coast. More recent data suggest that number is three times higher, at about 3,000, though with the pandemic,
“it’s difficult to accurately track students who are not in classrooms [on a daily basis],” said Tara Pagliarini, the organization’s executive director.
What’s worse, with the eviction moratorium ending in December 2020, many more families and students are likely going to be bounced from homes and will end up living in hotels/motels, doubled up with others, in their vehicles, tents or shelters.
And that’s where Family Promise of Brevard steps in, and steps up, to help.
The organization’s goal is to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring. At a cost of roughly $250.00 per child to maintain housing vs. $5,000 to re-establish housing, homeless prevention is key. Family Promise of Brevard relies on community partnerships, grant funding and grassroots giving to service the 60 families per month they regularly assist.
Founded by a group of concerned local religious leaders in 2007, the interfaith model requires participating families to meet certain criteria and follow protocols, such as saving 80% of their income and maintaining employment. Resources are provided to help them learn financial responsibility, assist with credit repair, and access employment and health and wellness issues instead of resources.
Collaboration is one of the pillars of the organization’s mission. Family Promise is not out to ‘recreate the wheel’ said Tara. Instead, “we rely on available community resources to help find needed assistance for our clients. In doing so, we are not only able to steward our funding directly to the families, we are engaging people to be invested in strengthening our community” she said.
Helping families get back into or remain in permanent housing requires a committed community, willing to provide shelter resources and love to the most vulnerable among us. Partnering with the many faith partners affiliated with Family Promise of Brevard, families are rotated among congregations during the week, which offers a warm place to stay for the whole family. During the week, children attend virtual or in-person classes at school, and families are provided education, employment and financial assistance to help move them into stable housing.
The formula seems to be working well, said Tara, who cited a 94% success rate of returning families to – and keeping them in – housing.
There’s No Place Like (Having A) Home
Acknowledging that Family Promise is less a “gala fundraising type of organization,” and more a community connector (word-of-mouth funding through the congregations has been paramount to their success), the non-profit has developed a few events that offer residents and corporations the chance to help fill in funding gaps.
In 2106, they started the Emerald City 5K, an all-ages walks and run, which takes participants on a roundtrip course from the Church of Viera through the back roads of the sprawling suburb. The event is sponsored by the Church of Viera and Wesche Jewelers.
This year marks the second in their five race “Journey Home” series. Themed “It’s been a witch of year”, Dorothy is introduced to the Wicked Witch which represents the lack of affordable housing, skilled jobs, and opportunities for social mobility. This race will occur February 26, 2021 and follows COVID-19 Protocols.
Everybody wants to “go home” at some point, said Tara, and the race – which can be completed in person or virtually – will offer participants custom shirts, commemorative finisher medals and keys to unlock a diamond prize – donated by Wesche Jewelers. Additional raffle keys also may be purchased, and event registration is not required to purchase keys for the raffle.
Shawna Lucas (formerly Kelsch) has lived and worked in Brevard county for the past 20 years, serving in a variety of jobs and community service roles. She’s a former food and news reporter for Florida today, and was owner/operator of a marketing company that assisted clients and partners such as the Florida Healthcare Coalition, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation for Florida, The Brevard Health Alliance, and Florida Tech to identify and solve pressing community health issues. She has she has dual bachelors degrees in Journalism and Sociology from the University of Miami, and was an inaugural fellow at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.