The month of November usually reminds people of food and spending time with family. For Family Promise, the month helps them spread awareness of the hunger and homelessness that is occurring in Billings and across Montana as a whole.
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, a study conducted in January of 2016 found that there are about 1,418 people who are homeless in Montana. This means that for every city with a population of 100,000, at least 136 people are homeless.
An article published by the Billings Gazette from September stated that “the homeless population in the Billings area has jumped from 545 in 2001 to 1,019 this year.”
There are a handful of organizations in Billings that aim to help the large homelessness population that is present in Billings. One of those organizations is Family Promise.
Family Promise’s website explained that the organization is made up of 26 Billings congregations that use their strong faith to help those in need.
Senior Bridgette Buchanan is the media analyst for the Office of Community Engagement and has been in charge of organizing groups that volunteer at different branches of Family Promise.
“It’s really rewarding,” said Buchanan. “You feel good about yourself because you know that you’re doing good in the community.”
Buchanan explained that she has organized two teams that travel to different locations and either help reorganize and clean the facilities or play with the children.
RMC alumna Erika Musser is an intern for Family Promise and has been working closely with Alexandra Stevenson, an Americorps VISTA at Family Promise. They have been working together to arrange events to help the organization sustain their mission of “helping homeless families achieve and sustain independence by fostering a community response to homelessness.”
Homelessness Awareness Week began on Nov. 11 and ended on the 19. Family Promise hosted a benefit at MoAv Coffee Shop on Nov. 12 to bring more awareness to the homelessness that is present in Billings and to break the stigma that surrounds the homeless.
The coffeeshop provided refreshments for the guests to purchase and there was also a Cards for a Cause table where all of the proceeds went back to Family Promise.
Musser said, “The event was part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, so we joined the coalition of hundreds across the country who will come together this week [to help].”
Musser shared that the event began with the director of Family Promise, Lisa Donnot, speaking to the crowd and explaining the event’s and organization’s mission. Three former Family Promise members shared their personal accounts of homelessness and gave testimony on how Family Promise positively impacted their lives and gave them the ability to be homeowners. The event ended with a local band playing music for the attendees.
Buchanan also attended the event and was in charge of the volunteer table where she handed out pamphlets to potential volunteers.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Buchanan. “Erika and Alexandra were the ones running the event. I felt so proud of them and their accomplishments that night. The event had such a warm and welcoming atmosphere.”
The event was a success and had close to 75 people support Family promise, shared Musser.
While Family Promise is an organization that is faith based, it is not a requirement needed to volunteer with the organization.