NEW GARDEN >> Alyssa had her first child at age 17. Three years later, she had her second.
Soon after, she was raising her children on her own and in May of this year found herself at a local family homeless shelter, Family Promise of Southern Chester County.
She had hit rock bottom.
“The whole time I was at (Family Promise), it was hard, she said. “I knew I needed to come up with some kind of plan. I didn’t know anything about life except how to be a mom.”
Sue Minarchi, director at Family Promise of Southern Chester County, and her staff worked with Alyssa. They showed her how to write a resume, how to interview, how to dress for an interview, and how to be sociable. After her fourth interview for a job at Wells Fargo, she came back in tears to tell the staff she had landed the job. She was on the path to digging out of poverty.
“I became more confident in myself,” she said. “I became so close to the volunteers, and now they are like family. (Family Promise) is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Started just a few years ago, Family Promise doesn’t just feed and shelter homeless families — it helps get them back on their feet. The national average for families to be in the program is 63 days, and 80 percent of the families are successful in maintaining sustainability after a year.
The program has grown with the help of the community. Last year, more than 800 volunteers logged 16,482 hours and provided 9.666 meals and 4,222 bed nights at local churches.
“We are so grateful for the volunteers who give their time, talent and resources to help people in the community,” said county Commissioner Kathi Cozzone at a volunteer appreciation event last week at the Family Promise Resource Center off Old Baltimore Pike in New Garden.
In its service area, which includes the Oxford, Avon Grove, Kennett Consolidated and the Unionville-Chadds Ford school districts, 422 school-age children and their families were impacted by homelessness in the 2015-16 school year.
“In our community, affordable housing is getting harder and harder to find,” Minarchi said. “Families with children make up 40 percent of the people nationwide who experience homelessness and they are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.”
Family Promise of Southern Chester County is part of a national, nonprofit initiative founded in 1986 that currently has operations in 43 states. There are 13 affiliates located throughout Pennsylvania with three more in the process of opening.
Last year, Minarchi said six cars were donated to Family Promise of Southern Chester County. Five have been gifted to needy local families who went through the program. She looked at Alyssa and said, “We have just one car left, and so we need one person to get their driver’s license.”