Family Promise gives homeless families with children hope, stability

4-year old Roman shows off his fishtank.
4-year old Roman shows off his fishtank. (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) -  Family Promise of Greater Roanoke is one of the partner agencies for the United Way Program RYSE. The RYSE Program's goal is to get nearly 600 children into a home.  80-percent of these families aren't able to get government assistance because they aren't living on the streets. Instead they are couch surfing with friends or family or living in motels.

"Never in a million years would I have ever thought at 22 years old I would be homeless in a shelter with my four-year-old," said Kim Mitchell, who gets emotional remembering the low point of being homeless with no money. "No one understood that I missed the bus, I have no money, my baby's sick and I didn't know what else to do. That really hurt me because I'm on the verge of snapping, completely ready to give up because I was like 'what more can happen? How am I going to get all the way back to Salem if I don't even have $1.50?' It was just overwhelming. It definitely opened my eyes to see how bad it could get because if you don't even have $1.50 to get back to where you live that's hard."

Hard on 4-year old Roman too.

"There would be times where he acted out and I had to restrain him, I had to make sure he understood that you can't act this way just because you're in this predicament. You should not do things that are wrong just because you feel this pain, this frustration," said Mitchell.

The mother and son caught a break after becoming clients of Family Promise of Greater Roanoke.

"Roman is one of the sweetest boys you'll meet and Kim from day one she's had a goal in mind," said Aaron Dowdy, Family Promise Housing Stability Manager.

The network of 31 congregations and more than 1,000 volunteers provide temporary housing and meals for families with children working with four families at a time.

"We see 30 families a year that have been in crisis. House burns down, they lose a job, a family breaks up and so you see families coming to us that have experienced some devastation and they hear lots of no's," said Dowdy.

"I had an eviction on my name, bad credit, no friends or family around it was a lot difficult to overcome these obstacles but when you put yourself around people that are going to support you and make sure you know the right connections it makes things all the better," said Mitchell.

Dowdy was one of those connections helping her find a home to rent and classes about money, setting goals and more. Now life has completely changed. She is going to school and Roman may skip his last year of pre-school and head into Kindergarten.

"I couldn't ask for a better place, a better location, a better job. I couldn't ask for anything because I'm getting everything I need and want and that is amazing," said Mitchell.

The boost she got is a boost she hopes the more than 200 other homeless families, nearly 600 children get through RYSE.

"Be a blessing to others and just think of it it could be you one day and if that could be you, it could be anybody. Think about those kids because children in poverty become adults and poverty and if you don't want to take care of an adult and poverty try to prevent children being in poverty," said Mitchell.

RYSE, which stands for Rehousing Youth for Success in Education, is an initiative by the United Way that works with local schools to identify homeless children and put their family on the pathway to self-sufficiency.

On June 29, there'll be three different ways for you to donate and help this cause.

  • Call: Just dial 1-866-975-7697 and you'll be connected to someone in our phone bank who will take your pledge
  • Online: Go to www.uwrv.org/ryseuproanoke to donate
  • Text: Send the message "RYSE" and a dollar amount to 41444. You will then receive a link to fill out an online form. Standard message and data rates apply
  • If you want to donate before the telethon, that's fine too!