BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Having a home for the holidays is something many of us take for granted, but there are some families in our community who are homeless now. The group Family Promise of WNY works to help get those families back on their feet.
The group is an interfaith network of volunteers from different churches and organizations in our area, which provides food, shelter, and support for homeless families by putting them up one week at a time. At night, the families stay in local churches, while during the day, they go to the Family Promise resource center to work with a case manager and take steps to get back on track.
We met several selfless volunteers for the Family Promise program through Hamburg United Methodist Church on Thursday morning during Wake Up. Click on the videos below to watch our conversations with them.
Friday morning, News 4 introduced you to one family that has been through the Family Promise program, going from homeless to at home for the holiday.
This is the first Christmas in a very long time that Ronka Castle and her family have had a Christmas Tree in their own apartment. “We haven’t had a tree in a while, because we’ve been down for a while,” she said.
Castle says when she moved to Buffalo last year with her children, they came with basically nothing. Then, a few months ago, when she was going back to school and her hours were cut at work to the point she couldn’t make her rent, her family found themselves without a place to live. “Long story short, she (the landlord) came and evicted us, at midnight on the first of September,” Castle recalled.
At that time, Castle was raising her three teenage kids on her own and her two very young nieces, and the family of six was homeless. “That felt like the end of the world,” Castle said.
But then, Castle and her family got connected with Family Promise of Western New York, and were able to stay overnight in churches around the area, which put them up as a family together, and provided them with the shelter, food, and support they needed. Volunteers even ran out to get diapers for Castle’s youngest niece when they realized that was needed. “We just try and provide hospitality and meals for the family, trying to make them feel more at home,” said the co-coordinator of the Family Promise program at Hamburg United Methodist Church, Paul Hawes.
During the day, Castle’s kids were able to go to school — and keep up good grades — while castle was meeting with a case worker and using the program’s resources to find a suitable place for them to live that she could afford. On average, families stay in the Family Promise program for 28 days. Castle’s family was helped by the program from early September until they moved into an apartment in November.
Throughout the hard times, Castle maintained hope about the future. “I sat the kids down and I said listen, we’re going to make this work until we can do better,” she said. And, as she showed our News 4 crew around her new apartment, it was clear Castle has been leading by example. She’s finishing her CNA this January to start a new career. And, she says she grateful to everyone from Family Promise who helped her get to this point. “The volunteers were awesome. They helped us so much,” Castle said.
More help is always needed to keep the program going though, from gifts of personal hygiene items and money, to the gift of your time as a volunteer. You can learn more about how you can help on the Family Promise website: www.fpwny.org
Meet the people behind the Family Promise program: