When the stay-home order closed church doors, a congregation in Post Falls decided they needed to find something meaningful to do with their space. They already had a relationship with the Family Promise program – which provides housing and fellowship for homeless families – and when the organization put out a call for help, they answered.
That is how two homeless families came to live in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Post Falls for six weeks.
“It’s a very large building, and God just really blessed us with that facility,” said BethAnne Moseanko, Seventh-day Adventist Church Family Promise coordinator. “We just think that it was a blessing to be able to have it used while we weren’t meeting there.”
Moseanko acknowledged the congregation was nervous at first. Though members were long-time program participants, they were not accustomed to having a family in their building unaccompanied.
“I think it’s human nature for some people to be a little bit uneasy about that, but after they were there for a week and everything was working out so well, anybody that had any apprehensions there, it was put to rest,” Moseanko said.
Though Family Promise – a national, volunteer-based organization – has always provided temporary homes for families experiencing homelessness, the situation at Seventh-day Adventist Church was not the traditional set up.
Usually, up to three families that are homeless are hosted by a congregation on a week-to-week, rotational basis. For the North Idaho chapter, 20 congregations participate in the program. During the day, the family spends their time in the day center at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which has a small kitchen, a small office for the parents, laundry facilities and a play area for the children.
During the evening, families go to the host church’s building, where they share dinner with two volunteers or a family from the congregation, and either those volunteers or a separate set of volunteers sleeps in the church with the homeless families.
“Often, sitting around a dinner table you find that the people you’re talking to are very similar to yourself, it’s really easy to find things that are similar,” said Cindy Wood, Family Promise North Idaho executive director. “What it offers to families who are homeless is unconditional acceptance. That’s a really big deal for someone who’s going through the trauma and crisis of homelessness.”
The unique circumstance of the pandemic also caused Family Promise North Idaho to reach out for funding so the group could have apartment units for the families in the future – and that call was answered by the Home Partnership Foundation as well as a Community Development Block Grant from the City of Coeur d’Alene. Now the organization needs to find two suitable apartments for the program.
“We’re excited,” Wood said. “It’s not just that we’re just getting apartments for them, but we’re helping them through the process of getting into their own apartment by providing a space where they can be that is safe and independent.”
Jill Dougherty, Trinity Lutheran Church coordinator, said the point isn’t to convert the family, and the churches do not expect anything in return.
“It’s brave for these folks to put their lives in the hands of church people,” Dougherty said.
About three years ago, Candice Young did just that with her four children. At the time, the family had been homeless for six months, and Young could recall sitting in her car with her children at 8 p.m. trying to figure out where they would go that evening.
“We got to the point where we were down in the dumps and felt like we had no other option,” Young said. “I didn’t want to go in there. I thought, ‘I don’t need somebody telling me what I can do and having a curfew and all of that.’ ”
Young said the program was amazing for her family. She is now a Family Promise North Idaho board member and works for herself as the owner of Candi’s Cleaning.
“I had a feeling that if I could just get on my feet, I’ll be OK, but I had no clue I’d be working for myself,” Young said. “I never thought in a million years that I would be.”
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