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About the agency
Family Promise is the only agency providing housing for homeless families in Anoka County, said Karen Skepper, a county manager who works with homeless programs. With its 800 volunteers and job search resources, “Family Promise plays a big role in the county,” she said. “It is an organization that is on the street helping the families with the core services they need right now.”
The number of homeless families in the county dropped by 41 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to annual counts taken in January, Skepper said. In the same period, homeless individuals increased by 53 percent. Overall homelessness is increasing in the county and state, she said. The county has several shelters for homeless individuals.
Family Promise, which opened in September 2010, is part of a national network in 41 states, Rodriguez said. The Anoka County branch serves about 27 families a year. Ninety percent of them find a home within 90 days, the maximum time the agency will house them, she said. After that they return to friends or relatives, other agencies or the streets.
“It really is the volunteers that are Family Promise,” Rodriguez said. “They are the front line.”
One of those volunteers is Sandy Forrest, 66, of Blaine. She helps make meals at Unity North church and sometimes lets the guest kids play video games on her cellphone. She also made Johnson’s boutonniere and the bride’s bouquet at their wedding.
“I have so much, I need to share it, ” Forrest said. “We help get them back on their feet. … It’s an uphill good feeling.”
Johnson said that before he came to Family Promise, “I was so down in the dumps I didn’t care anymore.”
He said besides the wedding and housing, church people took him to counseling and VA appointments. Their generosity helped him see God was at work, he said.
“Pretty much everything in here was given to us,” Johnson said, looking around their simply furnished, three-bedroom apartment that has a big flat-screen TV.
“It made me realize that there are still a lot of good people out there.”
Jim Adams • 612-763-7658