Press-Republican

February 14, 2013

Family Promise closes for good

By CHRIS FASOLINO
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Family Promise of Clinton County has shut down for good, a victim of lack of funding.

A local affiliate of the national nonsectarian, nonprofit organization Family Promise, the program provided support for those in need by sheltering homeless families in faith congregations throughout the area and helping find affordable housing, jobs and other services.

Mike Simpson of Chateaugay, who had been treasurer of the Plattsburgh-based affiliate, said the group ceased operations during the autumn and looked at various methods of restructuring.

“We didn’t leave any stone unturned,” he said.

However, none of the ideas seemed workable.

“Funds had been falling for a few years, and we had been operating with a fairly tight margin. It was not sustainable, and we didn’t want to enter into any contracts if we couldn’t fulfill them.”

LOST FUNDING

Simpson noted that the major difference came from a decline in federal and state grants.

“That funding was drying up.”

Family Promise was a United Way agency and held its own fundraisers, but the money brought in couldn’t make up for the lost grants.

Simpson said the Clinton County Department of Social Services serves families in need who would have been assisted by the Family Promise programs. At the same time, he was sad to see the affiliate close down and grateful for the support from local congregations during the past 10 years.

Frank Baehre of Plattsburgh, who served as the program’s coordinator at First Presbyterian Church, also expressed sadness that Family Promise had to close down.

“We always felt it served a needed purpose by sheltering families in a more caring environment than being quartered at a local hotel or motel could possibly provide.”

SHELTERED IN CHURCHES

In the program, families would be sheltered at congregation buildings, staying there in the evening and overnight, accompanied by volunteers.

In the mornings, the volunteers would offer them breakfast and the option of a packed lunch. Around 8 a.m., they would leave for the day, served at the Family Promise Day Center on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church on Brinkerhoff Street in Plattsburgh. 

“At the Day Center, they would work with staff to find job opportunities and permanent housing,” Baehre said. “Very young children would stay with their parents; those old enough to attend school would go to whatever school they had been attending.

“Then, the family would go back to their host congregation for the night, volunteers would provide an evening meal, and the cycle would repeat.

“The families would change congregations on Sunday.”

‘ABOVE AND BEYOND’

Thus, the responsibilities were rotated among 10 to 12 faith congregations in the area.

“It was a model that worked well,” Baehre said. “We were very disappointed to find out that the funding sources had dried up. Family Promise went above and beyond to support homeless families.”

The future of Family Promise of Clinton County had been in doubt for months.

In October, the sole paid program aide was laid off; Director Maureen Bradish’s job ended soon afterwards.

She had been director through the entire decade of the program, from when the first congregations signed up and their volunteers were trained.

Funding was often a struggle, but the North Country expressed its support for Family Promise through donations that helped during the leanest times.

Until the largest source of financing the program dried up.

“I feel bad about the whole thing,” Bradish said Wednesday. “I just think it was a really good alternative for families.

“We provided so many more services (than Social Services) and helped (clients) get on their feet faster.”

Former volunteers have approached Bradish in tears over the end of the program, she said.

“I think people felt good about helping, and the families knew that it was something they did out of the goodness of their hearts,” she said.

“It provided services both ways.”

— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.