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Churches provide 'promise'to homeless families

I put my sleeping bag and pillow in one of the two rooms reserved for overnight hosts and go to find the other host, Nancy, upstairs. She is already there with the three currently homeless families the Hillsboro United Methodist Church is hosting. I introduce myself to parents and children.

They’ve had a dinner provided by other volunteers and are enjoying some social time before they go downstairs to their rooms for the night. Each family has one room they’ll share. There are vinyl-covered pads and bedding in each room, and sometimes, a TV.

One of the children, Scott, asks Nancy and me if we’ll play a game of foosball with him in a nearby room. I’ve seen the game played, but have never tried it. It’s Nancy and me versus Scott. He easily wins five games in a row. He’s feeling a little sorry for us, and maybe wishing he had better competition. He gives up some tips on when to turn the handles controlling the players. He wins the next two games and gives us more pointers.

We learn a little, but he still wins the next three games. He is smiling as he goes downstairs to the room where he’ll spend the night with his family.

“Well, I hope that will be a bright spot he’ll remember when he looks back on this time,” Nancy says. His family, and the others, will move on to another church at the end of this week. There are nearly 20 churches in all helping in the effort called Family Promise. I can hardly imagine what it must be like to have to pick up and move every week. The families just carry some clothes and toiletries. They have to travel light.

Often, the shelter of various churches will give a family enough time to save money for the security deposit most apartments require. Family Promise (formerly Family Bridge) also employs a director who helps people find housing and directs them to social services available.

In the morning, it’s raining. The families must be out of the church each weekday by 7 a.m. Scott and his mother have a car, but the others are on foot. A young couple with a toddler in a stroller hesitates before they go outside. I tell them to wait, and I run to my car. In the trunk there is a rain poncho, the kind that costs $1. I give it to them. They put it over the stroller, the hood area providing some breathing room.

Writer, birdwatcher and volunteer Debby de Carlo lives in Forest Grove.

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