Churches join to shelter homeless families - - The News for South Mississippi

Churches join to shelter homeless families

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Several Jackson County churches want to join forces to bring local homeless families off the streets and help them get back on their feet. Together, they are forming what they call an Interfaith Hospitality Network through a national program called Family Promise. 

Representatives from several area churches held their third organizational meeting Tuesday evening at St. John's Episcopal Church in Pascagoula.

Once they get started, they will become one of 150 Family Promise networks across the nation.  Several churches will host homeless families approximately four times each year, for a week at a time.  The families will only spend nighttime hours at the church, and will spend their days at a central shelter, equipped with showers, laundry facilities and a manager with social work skills to help parents find jobs.

"Right now we have sort of eight or nine that are very interested," said Mary Davis, who is spearheading the project. "But we need at least 10-13 that will host families.  And even if a church doesn't host a family, we need as many involved as possible who will maybe be the families that will bring in volunteers to another congregation that will bring in volunteers at night, congregate with them.  That will help us expand.  We need as many volunteers as possible."

Families are the fastest growing portion of the homeless population and children make up more than 30 percent of homeless people according to a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness.  Davis said the issue of family homelessness has always been very close to her heart and she found Family Promise while searching for ways to help out.

"I've always felt a certain amount of sympathy for the homeless," said Davis.  "I just believe that you could be going along doing what you're supposed to and some sort of random event could come along and sort of lead you to that, especially if you don't have a family network to help you out.  And I just decided to research initiatives in the area, and talked to someone in Mobile and they told me about this program.  So I just brought it to my church and it sort of expanded from there to other congregations."

At Tuesday's meeting, the group decided they will focus their efforts in Jackson County, although they will welcome churches from surrounding areas who want to participate.  Other Family Promise networks exist in surrounding areas as well.

"It usually takes several months to found it, sometimes even the better part of a year," Davis said.  "They're trying to form a local nonprofit with a board of directors here that manages it.  But they have a good idea of what they're going to do because there are over 150 networks nationally that do the same thing.  There's one in Baldwin County, one in Mobile, one in Biloxi, so we have a lot to go on."

If you know of a church that's interested in helping, you can contact either Church on the Rock or Saint John's Episcopal Church in Pascagoula.  The number for Church on the Rock is (228) 762-3221.  You can contact St. John's Episcopal Church at (228) 762-1705.

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