Shelter, employment and education are privileges many take for granted. Without the necessary skill set, many fall into homelessness. FPYV provides a second chance learning opportunity for families to finally become the “breadwinners” they’ve always wanted to be.
Formerly known as Interfaith Hospitality Network, FPYV has served the Billings area for 11 years.
True to its name, FPYV promises families light at the end of the tunnel – achievable and sustainable independence. More than 500 families have been assisted since the organization started. Due to the increased homelessness population within the community, organizations like FPYV are needed now more than ever.
With the help of 57 weekly volunteers, 26 faith-based congregations and a myriad of social service agencies, families reap the benefits of a collective force that believes in giving a hand up, rather than the proverbial hand out.
Each week, a host congregation provides nightly shelter for four families within the emergency shelter program. These are families either referred to FPYV by the congregation itself or through outside agencies. Volunteers assist by providing rides, setting up bedrooms and preparing meals.
The emergency shelter program is meant to be a temporary service. FPYV owns four apartments and utilizes three other spaces for families transitioning out of the emergency shelter program toward independent living.
Though most recognized for its emergency shelter program, FPYV also has a new day-center used for additional programming and services.
Filling the gaps
When families are referred to FPYV, they are given a generalized life assessment to figure out where the “holes” in their lives are. The assessment guides the case management that takes place at the day-center.
Other services include aftercare for families that graduated the program, tutoring courtesy of School District 2, MSU-B extension courses in nutrition and cooking, lessons in financial literacy provided by congregation volunteers and supervised visitations to renew estranged families via the Department of Public Health and Human Services. These agencies utilize FPYV’s space and work together to combat homelessness as a community.
Lisa Donnot, FPYV’s executive director, emphasizes that they do not want to duplicate resources or “mission creep.” By keeping informed of other local services, Donnot refers families to outside agencies when their needs misalign with FPYV’s mission.
Sometimes help is as simple as a box of diapers.
Youth pastor and director Brian Hunter of the First United Methodist Church initiated a diaper drive last year in collaboration with the Faith Coalition Advisory Board and FPYV.
“Having worked at the church for 18 years right at the center of homelessness, I’ve struggled with what is the appropriate response to the growing need. Different from a collection plate, we can provide something tangible, knowing it goes to the actual source. We love and completely trust Family Promise. Any time Lisa needs anything, we send the call out,” explained Hunter.
In its first year, the diaper drive received 42,000 diapers.
“Last year we had a baby that was odd-sized, who couldn’t fit in a standard car seat. I sent out a request and we ended up with 15 car seats total,” mentioned Donnot.
Everything from couches and cribs to family portraits and birthday celebrations is provided when asked for.
“Needs are met every single time without fail,” Donnot said.
Before FPYV started reaching out, they were spending $600 to $800 a month on diapers alone. Now, with a well-established network of resources, FPYV shares any overabundance to other organizations.
“Though the overall need has increased, the way agencies are dealing with it is better than it has ever been,” noted Hunter.