WASILLA — Family Promise Mat-Su is currently working to find additional ways to house their transitional families since their usual partnership with local churches is more limited in scope due to pandemic.
Family Promise typically houses their clients with local church groups, or at the Kari House, a transitional housing unit for families named after the Mat-Su affiliate founding executive director, Laurie Kari.
According to Family Promise Mat-Su’s Ginger Bear, the Kari House can only accommodate two families at a time, so having the network of local churches offering overnight services has been crucial to their efforts supporting local families in need.
She said that it was an all encompassing service. Church volunteers spent the evening socializing with families, eating a home cooked meal together, playing games, and watching movies together to comfort them during their transitional period.
The pandemic has prompted all of Family Promise’s church partners to close their overnight accommodations, but they’ve continued to bring meals for their clients. Bear said it’s great to have their continued support from afar, but they’re missing out on the personal nuances from the pre-pandemic interactions.
“That’s a really important piece that is missing… The families are missing the compassionate care piece that’s really our signature service,” Bear said.
Family Promise recently conducted a survey among their church partners to gauge where they were at with reopening their overnight services. Bear said there hasn’t been any indication of that happening, so they’re currently looking for alternative means to make up for the situation, including the possibility of starting virtual game nights and other social interactions.
In the meantime, Family Promise has been utilizing local hotels to accommodate their clients. According to Bear, their total number of clients served grew from 26 families in 2019 to 46 families in 2020, largely due to the pandemic. She said they’re looking to expand the Kari House in some capacity as soon as they can to help cater to the rise in demand.
“The need is there,” Bear said.
According to Bear, Family Promise Mat-Su has been faring well through the pandemic despite the various hurdles. She said they recently received a dishwasher that was donated by the Home Depot to aid their efforts renovating the Kari House. She said they also got a call for a potential vehicle donation. She said community support like that helps them maintain and expand their services.
“In general, we are so blessed,” Bear said.
Bear said that Family Promise is the only transitional housing service for transient families in the Valley, so they’re at the forefront of a vital need in the community. Looking forward, she said that she’s optimistic about the future and their capacity to serve their clients no matter what’s thrown at them.
“We’re here pretty much to help provide the resources and help them move along through the transition from homelessness to housing. That’s pretty much our job,” Bear said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
Family Promise is one of several Valley organizations that recently received funding from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s rental and utility assistance program benefitting renters who’ve been affected by COVID-19. Bear said they will use these funds to support local families on the verge of homelessness.
For more information about Family Promise Mat-Su, call 907-357-6160 or visit fpm-su.com.
The deadline for Alaska Housing rental and utility assistance applications is March 5. For more information, call 833-440-0420 or visit alaskahousingrelief.org
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org