A Tooele pastor has a dream where every homeless family in Tooele transcends poverty and has a successful future. Pastor Debi Paulsen for Tooele United Methodist Church
believes her dream can be achieved through a nationwide program called Family Promise.
“In communities like Tooele where the governments are really taxed, there aren’t resources to provide overnight shelters for families,” she said. “Family Promise is a way to offer shelters for homeless families through all of the local faiths and denominations.”
Family Promise is a program that has been around for nearly 20 years and is utilized in 41 states. Its mission is to help homeless families achieve sustainable independence. The program is designed to provide shelter, meals and comprehensive services for homeless families through local churches. Paulsen said the program also works to help people get out of the cycle of homelessness.
Although Tooele UMC is the only church in the Tooele area that has expressed interest in the Family Promise program so far, Paulsen has high hopes that other churches will soon join.
“I’m trying to get a network of churches on board that will provide shelter for families on a weekly basis,” she said. “Clergy will basically turn the church into a shelter for as many as four to five families and they’ll stay there for week at a time.”
Paulsen also hopes to find a church that will function as a day center where homeless families can access computers to search for jobs and meet with social workers and other mental health professionals.
“The goal is to get a family into their own home basically within a year,” she said. “Family Promise will help these families to transition into their own homes, but they won’t just be left on their own. Family Promise continues to provide resources, counseling and support for two years after the family is no longer homeless.”
Paulsen said this two-year support network is important because it basically guarantees that the families won’t end up back on the streets.
Family Promise is an important program for Tooele for two reasons.
“First of all, it brings all the denominations together with a common goal,” she said. “Every religion teaches to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. We will be able to do that together. The other thing is that people who serve the homeless really end up getting so much more out of the opportunity to meet these families and see the face of homelessness.”
Paulsen said around 700 children in Tooele County are considered homeless.
“If we can provide a stable environment for them to live in, their focus can be on education rather than where their next meal is coming from,” she said.
Paulsen added Tooele County Relief Services will continue to be a major resource to the community.
Family Promise will partner with Tooele County Relief Services to get information out to families about the program.
An informational meeting will be held Feb. 20 starting at 5:30 p.m. at Tooele UMC, 78 E. Utah Ave. From 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., community members can join a weekly meal the Tooele UMC provides to the homeless community. Then from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., two guest speakers will explain the program. Karen Kuipers from Tooele County Relief Services will present facts about the needs of homeless families in the area, and Tony Milner, executive director of Family Promise Salt Lake City, will present information about starting a Family Promise organization in Tooele.
“We need other churches to come and find out if this is something they can help with,” Paulsen said. “We have had positive feedback from community members, and this is important. It unites people of all cultures and it’s a positive program. We need to have at least three to four churches to start with that are willing to host a week of Family Promise, and it’ll take about 50 volunteers.”
To RSVP and make child care arrangements for the meeting, call Melanie Beatty at (385) 282- 3377.