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The little shelter program that could
October 15, 2014

By Kris Berggren | Our shelter program, Families Moving Forward, is kind of like “the little engine that could.”

We are small but we persevere. And we are achieving our goal to end homelessness, one family at a time.

Our program relies on volunteers at more than 60 congregations to offer overnight shelter and hospitality to families experiencing homelessness.

For congregations, it’s a meaningful way to live their values.

For families, it’s an alternative to other shelter programs – we are small, serving up to 12 families at a time at our two program center locations (Minneapolis and Prior Lake). That allows us to offer personal attention and help families address their particular situation and get into housing more quickly.

True, it’s also different from other shelters in that families move back and forth daily from our program centers to host congregations instead of staying a central shelter facility 24/7.

But it’s also different because we think of the families we serve as guests, and that goes for everyone – staff and volunteers. It’s that sense of welcoming someone into your congregation, your “faith home.” And that is important!

Sometimes families are a little wary – like, are they going to try to convert me? Do I have to pray before I can go to sleep? But the answer is, NO! That said, some families like the opportunity to be in a faith-based environment and find that they have some common ground with volunteers there. But it is completely voluntary.

The impact on families is huge. We hear from families that have successfully exited our program into housing that they don’t know where they would be without the help of FMF staff and volunteers.

This weekend is Cardboard Box City – teens from many of our hosting congregations and other youth groups and school groups will convene at the state fairgrounds for a big sleepout – they will sleep outside, eat at a simple soup line, learn about homelessness in our area. They’ll raise funds to support Families Moving Forward and Project Home, a similar shelter program operated by the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches.

This event shows that the next generation is taking its place to help us chug up that hill with confidence and perseverance – and we are proud of them.