Mike and Andressa Bouyer wanted to give their children a better life when they made the decision to move away from their home in Illinois.
But things didn’t work out exactly like they planned and the Bouyers found themselves in Gainesville, living out of their van.
While using the Internet at the library in late September, Andressa Bouyer found out about a nonprofit program in Gainesville called Family Promise. A week later, the Bouyers were admitted into the program and were on their way to the life they envisioned for their children.
The organization, which started helping families six months ago, aims to end homelessness by helping families with children get back on their feet and into a home of their own. To do that, the organization first helps parents find stable employment. A portion of each paycheck is saved for the family to use as a deposit for an apartment and to get their utilities turned on.
Bouyer said the program has restored his hope and faith and has given his family something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. He starts his new job at Milton Martin Toyota today.
Bouyer said the program has been a blessing to his family.
“We would love to be in our own home. This is our first time being in a position like this. The people have been great. Everybody, they just jumped right in. They helped us with a lot of things,” Bouyer said.
During the day, families stay at the day center where they can do their laundry, take a shower, work on their resumes and look for work.
A professional social worker is on hand to provide case management services. The day center provides families with a mailing address so they can search for housing and employment.
After school, children stay in the center and work on their homework or play games with each other.
At night, the families stay with one of 13 host congregations. The churches provide the families with three warm meals each day and a place to sleep. Every week, a new host church takes the families in. One congregation will serve families three or four times a year.
The program can only accept 14 people at time, including parents and children. Families are able to stay in the program for 90 days.
If a family doesn’t have a vehicle of its own, the organization has a 15-passenger van to help transport families to and from school, work or job interviews.
Lindsey McCamy, director of Family Promise, said people are often surprised to hear that there is a problem with homelessness in Gainesville.
“People don’t realize how many families are homeless in Gainesville because it’s not New York City, and you don’t see it on the street corners. It’s more hidden, so people are just always blind that there is a problem here,” McCamy said.
She said the families are usually in a difficult situation because of the loss of a job or because “something big in the family has happened.”
“We’ve seen a lot of husbands and wives who’ve been laid off because of the economy,” McCamy said.
McCamy said being able to meet and network with the different congregations during the week provides a lot of families with business contacts that lead to full-time employment or housing.
Bouyer said he’s so grateful for the people he’s met through the program and for the help they’ve provided to his family.
He said it’s still a difficult situation to be in, there are still difficult emotions to face, and his children still ask why they have to sleep in different places every week, but he said there is more hope now.
“I assure them this is just a season. This is just for right now,” Bouyer said.