It’s always been Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley’s mission to mobilize community faith groups to bring shelter, services and meals to homeless families.
Who better to mobilize a faith group than a former pastor?
The Santa Clarita Valley’s only nonprofit solely dedicated to serving families with children has just named Roché Vermaak, Ph.D. their new executive director, filling a position that has been vacated since August when the previous executive director entered a new role at Bridge to Home.
“I’m excited to be here,” Vermaak said. “It’s a great opportunity and I think it’s a great alignment.”
Vermaak, a South Africa native, served as a pastor for a total of 24 years, most recently for 12 years at Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.
In his time there, he spearheaded many volunteer efforts, growing the church’s budget to $425,000 for missions alone and recruiting 270 volunteers.
He has been involved with various organizations that focus on serving the homeless in Los Angeles County, including The People Concern, My Friend’s Place and Westside Food Bank.
Working with executive directors and program managers who were combatting homelessness, Vermaak decided he wanted to take on a similar position full time.
Though he had already earned five degrees, including his master of divinity and doctorate in theology, he went back to school and earned a certificate in nonprofit management to prepare himself for his new career path.
Family Promise works with local churches and faith groups of all denominations to house and feed local families in need, which Vermaak said is close to his heart and a key part of his beliefs.
“If somebody falls on hard times and we have the measures of grace, if we have food, if we have housing, if we have finances, our faith obligates us to share that and to be hospitable,” he said. “For us, what is the common thread across our tradition? We are the stewards of grace.”
Looking forward, Vermaak said he wants Family Promise to be able to support clients for two or three years after they finish their 90-day program to ensure they do not fall back into homelessness.
This means finding permanent solutions, including a stable home to buy or rent, job security, settling any internal family issues, addressing physical and mental illnesses and placing children in good schools, he said.
“You need to walk this journey with a family,” the new executive director said. “It’s not just checking a box and saying, ‘people are no longer homeless.’”
It is his vision that families no longer live out of their suitcases and can establish a home where they can make memories.
“We believe it’s a human right to have decent housing,” he said. “For us, living in a community that is affluent, for kids to be homeless is just not acceptable.”