NEW GARDEN >> The county’s newest initiative to end family homelessness has been such a huge success in the past year because of assistance of the more than 600 volunteers and dozens of area churches.
“Many of the services, the programs and the agencies that serve the homeless are 30 and 40 years old,” said Pat Bokovitch, director of the Chester County Department of Community Development. “The Friends Association goes back 100 years in West Chester. To be able to see a need and put together a plan and implement it and serve our mist difficult segment of homelessness in families, families with children, is really impressive.”
Bokovitch, along with state lawmakers and municipal leaders, were on hand to celebrate the grand opening Thursday night of the newest facility at 1156 West Baltimore Pike for Family Promise of Southern Chester County.
William McGovern, who owns and operates a waste disposal company that serves the Tri-State area, is allowing Family Promise to use its building. Family Promise was forced to move out of its resource center in West Grove after the Archdioceses of Philadelphia decided to close four of its buildings recently. Family Promise had renovated the old convent at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church.
“I’m just glad to get involved,” McGovern said. “I just made a small deal.”
But Kevin McLean, vice president of the Family Promise board of directors, said it made a huge difference.
“That small deal puts us in a position where we will have a foothold in Chester County for at least the next 10 years,” McLean said.
Sue Minarchi, executive director for Family Promise of Southern Chester County, said 25 adults and 44 children, ranging in age from 7 months to 17 years, have been aided in the past year by services provided by the organization.
“Our volunteers are incredible,” Minarchi said. “They do everything needed to make families comfortable. Going from church to church is not an easy thing. They are sleeping on cots that are comfortable but not the best thing in the world.”
State Rep. Eric Roe (R-158th Dist.) said he is honored to have Family Promise of Southern Chester County in his legislative district.
“I want to thank you for doing the Lord’s work,” Roe said. “Six hundred volunteers is a lot of volunteers. You are doing something right.”
Rep. John Lawrence (R-158th Dist.) said Family Promise is making an impact on the community.
“It’s a great program on many levels,” Lawrence said. “Often times there is nowhere for a homeless fmaily to go. This fills that void.”
McLean said many of the families that the organization served this past year are now in permanent housing.
“When the kids come into this program, they are in absolute shock,” he said “When the kids start to heal, the parents start to feel better about themselves and to move out of homelessness. We provide temporary homes and this is not an easy program for people to be in. But it’s better than not having a home, and better than not eating. We provide a service that is really, really needed.”
Since the new home is now located off of Baltimore Pike, a major roadway, public transportation may become available in the way of SCOOT (Southern Chester Organization On Transportation).
Family Promise of Southern Chester County is part of a national, non-profit 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. The national average for families achieving success in the program is 63 days and 80 percent of the families are successful in maintaining sustainability after a year.