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Interfaith group inches closer to opening housing for homeless program

After a delay in the remodeling process of its day center pushed plans back by about six months, Family Promise of Cowlitz County is getting closer to housing its first group of homeless families.

Dave Martin, pastor for Emmanuel Lutheran Church and organization chair, said the interfaith group hopes to start serving families around June.

“We want to be established on firm ground, so we are trying to do everything by the rule and guidelines,” Martin said. “Even though we are chomping at the bit to get going, it’s better to do it well than open early and not be fully ready.”

Family Promise of Cowlitz County is the local chapter of a national nonprofit program that hosts homeless families in churches. The group has 13 “host” congregations that open their churches up to house families overnight and 15 “support” congregations that provide volunteers and donations the program.

Family Promise is directed at getting families back on their feet and into stable housing, Martin said.

On average, a family will spend about two months in the program before finding housing, Martin said. And 79 percent of the families that “graduate” from the program stay stable after that, he said.

Although the local chapter was launched in December 2016, the group waited to open its doors until the day center is completed and its bank account has $70,000, about half of the estimated annual operating budget.

Volunteers have been working to remodel the space on the second floor of 215 Academy St., in Kelso, which Family Promise leased. The remodel was expected to be complete by January, but additional work to clear the space and a permitting process delayed the launch, Martin said.

The group now has all its permits and is working with Daniel Milliren Construction, Busack Electric, Vetter Plumbing and Carlson Heating and Cooling to prepare the space. Many of the contractors are offering discounted rates for the project, Martin said.

“We are just so thankful for whatever they can do to help us,” Martin said.

Family Promise will also start the hiring process for an executive director, case manager and van driver now that it’s met — and exceeded — its $70,000 goal, Martin said. Family Promise will post the executive director opening starting in March, he said.

It will take about $135,000 to run the program each year, so finances continue to be important for the group, Martin said. Family Promise is accepting donations through its online website, its partnering churches and by mail. More information is available online at familypromiseofcowlitzco.org.

“I would really like to thank the community for their support,” Martin said. “This is an ongoing thing, and we hope we can rely on their support through this new year and the years to come.”

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