A new study found that faith-based organizations are essential players in eliminating homelessness, and Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga is one such organization meeting that need locally.
Cary Bayless, development and marketing director of Family Promise, said that he wasn't surprised by the results of the study.
"[Faith-based organizations] are a key player for sure," Bayless said. "If it weren’t for their help, it would be detrimental."
Baylor University in Texas conducted the study with a grant from Chattanooga's Maclellan Family Foundations.
The report focused primarily on the faith-based response to homelessness in 11 U.S. cities.
It found that faith-based organizations provided 60 percent of emergency shelter beds and that the organizations' three-year return on investment was $9.42 for every $1 invested in the community.
This led to $119 million in tax savings for U.S. citizens.
The study attributed the strong impact faith-based organizations had on these issues to understanding homelessness on a deeper level.
The authors of the study wrote, "As one [faith-based organization] service provider told us: 'People don’t become homeless when they run out of money, at least not right away. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.'"
Bayless also attributed some of the impact to the support that churches generally give to people in times of need.
"I think a big reason behind it is that if people are in need, they’re going to turn to the church," he said. "It’s a safe place. It’s a role the church has taken on."
Family Promise provides several kinds of services to Chattanooga citizens in need.
Parents can have access to day care services, budgeting and parenting classes, or get help securing employment opportunities or housing during the daytime.
For shelter at night, families are hosted at one of 33 places of worship. Family Promise provides the bedding, and the church provides activities, meals and volunteers. Churches take turns hosting families for a week.
Through its programs, Family Promise finds that families are back on their feet in an average of 60 days, with an 80 percent chance that the family remains housed, employed and connected to its services.
In 2016, Family Promise served 409 families and 1,100 members of the homeless community locally.
Twelve of the families helped got new housing.
I really feel like everyone deserves the chance to be housed and hopeful. When someone is homeless, they’re living in survival mode and are focused on basic human needs. When they’re in that mentality, I don’t see what kind of outcome we can expect from children. They don’t have a chance to hope or dream because they’re focused on their next meal. My passion is helping people get their lives settled and basic human needs met and giving them the chance to hope and dream big again.
Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She is also currently attending UTC, where she is the news editor for the school newspaper, The University Echo.
Updated @ 3:40 p.m. on 2/27/17 to correct Bayless' title, which was originally reported as developing director.