Family Promise looks back on 10 years assisting homeless families, future goals

Residents from left, Lisa Reyes, Sandra and Matthew Beardsley and their children Grayson, 8 weeks, and Wyatt, 2, look on as Benny Galan, left, is photographed by Roche' Vermaak, right, Executive Director of Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley as he blows out the candles on his tenth birthday cake at the Family Promise home in Castaic on Thursday, October 22, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley, a nonprofit dedicated to serving local homeless families, celebrated its 10-year anniversary this month.

Since opening in 2011, the organization, its leaders, volunteers and donors have worked together to help change the lives of countless homeless families.

Family Promise began in New Jersey in 1986 when a group of community faith leaders came together to address the growing concern of family homelessness in their community.

Volunteer Karen Olson led the group in creating a plan to not only feed, but also house homeless families at the local congregations, creating the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which was later named Family Promise, in 1988.

In 2009, Terry and Larry Comp gathered faith leaders and community members to launch a Family Promise in the SCV, with the first families receiving shelter in June 2011.

Family Promise volunteers shop for groceries for local homeless families. Courtesy

Families have continued to be housed at local congregations and in motels since then, through 30-, 60- or 90-day stays — until the pandemic hit, closing congregations indefinitely, forcing the organization to pivot to continue serving homeless families.

In July 2020, a generous donor allowed Family Promise to purchase a transitional house, allowing the organization to continue its program, providing both shelter and case management services.

From June 2011 to March 2020, 113 families and 371 people took shelter at local congregations, while 84 families, including 278 people and five unborn children, have taken shelter in local motels for 373 nights since 2015.

While the pandemic halted congregation sheltering efforts, 12 families, or 38 people, spent 86 nights in motels, and the transitional house has provided 2,065 beds over the course of 733 nights, housing a total of 28 people since mid-September, with seven of the eight families graduating from the program.

Family Promise has also continued paying utilities, internet, supplies, food, toiletries, child care, transportation, gas and rent, among other things, for families in need and has remained committed to serving and assisting those families in meeting their three goals: finding work, saving money and finding permanent housing, according to Roché Vermaak, executive director.

Rachel Rieckhoff, Program Manager of Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley, walks into a bedroom converted to a children’s study and play room in the 2800 square foot Family Promise home in Castaic on Thursday, October 22, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Family Promise has continued to grow and meet the changing needs of the homeless families in our community,” said board President Lance O’Keefe.

Earlier this month, the Santa Clarita Planning Commission unanimously approved plans for Family Promise’s new transitional house, which is set to comprise five single-story apartment units for low-income families with children in Newhall.

The organization has partnered with the city of Santa Clarita, Williams Homes and HomeAid Los Angeles for the project, set to consist of a dedicated resource center and four affordable housing units for low-income and homeless families with children in Newhall, allowing these families to stay for a longer period of time after they’ve graduated the program.

“We are immensely grateful to both the city of Santa Clarita and Williams Homes for the opportunity to have four working families stay in the future housing units for three to nine months while they save money to afford their own permanent housing,” added Laurie Ender, past board president. “Staying in our transitional house for 30 to 90 days is a good start to saving money, but to afford a security deposit and a few months’ rent takes longer to save. This project illustrates our community’s ongoing commitment to help their neighbors who are most in need.”

Transitional housing has become virtually nonexistent, as the pandemic has used up much of the funding, making this a vital resource to the SCV, according to Vermaak.

“This will afford working families the opportunity to continue to save and build up a nest egg to get permanent housing,” Vermaak added.

A family graduates from Family Promise’s transitional housing program in June 2021. Courtesy

With case management services set to continue, families are expected to receive financial training and assistance, as well as both medical and psychological treatment to address past traumas.

“We see both adults and children alike struggling with trauma from being homeless,” Vermaak said, adding that Family Promise works with the L.A. County and Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers for mental health services. “It offers families an opportunity to know they are going to be housed … and that the trauma stops right now because there’s a future for them.”

The program’s resource center is also set to help families with systemic issues, such as unhealthy eating, not only providing them with groceries and meals, but also teaching them how to cook and eat healthy, as well as sufficient office space to allow for a place where both children and parents can come and work with consistent WiFi and volunteers to help tutor.

While a large portion of the costs to build the Family Promise House and Resource Center are expected to be donated by Williams Homes and the building community, the organization needs to raise an additional $1.6 million to complete the project.

Family Promise is calling on the community, businesses and congregations to help them raise the capital and help provide a lasting solution for homeless families in the SCV.

For more information on Family Promise, visit, email [email protected] or call 661-251-2867.  

Residents Julia Reyes, left, and mother Lisa Reyes cut the cake for Benny Galan, right, as he celebrates his tenth birthday in kitchen of the Family Promise home in Castaic on Thursday, October 22, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

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