July 31, 2020
The climb out of family homelessness is steep under the best circumstances.
COVID-19 and the steps necessary to stop its spread have placed new obstacles on the path out of homelessness for parents and children in Family Renew Community’s residential campuses in Holly Hill, Daytona Beach and DeLand.
The program provides each family with a modest, furnished apartment — rent-free and with no utility payments — and intensive case management. With this guidance, families learn to live within a strict budget to meet their daily needs and save money for their move to permanent housing.
The pandemic has simultaneously exacerbated those needs and stripped parents of income with which to meet them. This not only makes daily life more of a struggle but also threatens to diminish savings, pushing the dream of overcoming homelessness off into a more distant future.
The United Way of Volusia and Flagler Counties awarded Family Renew Community an $8,500 COVID-19 Relief Mini Grant to meet one of the most pressing pandemic needs of homeless families in the program — access to sufficient food. With the cooperation of Gaff’s Quality Meat and Specialty Foods in Port Orange and Sam’s Club in Daytona Beach — and a huge in-kind contribution by Zen Moving of a truck and crew for an afternoon — months’ worth of food was distributed to 34 homeless parents and their 54 children in June and July.
“Thank you, United Way for such a generous food delivery,” said one parent who received the food. “We are low-income and a lot of us are not working because of the COVID virus. We will be making some delicious meals with all of this food.”
Each of Family Renew Community’s 32 apartments has a kitchen, and families are responsible for obtaining groceries and preparing their own meals. Most families receive SNAP benefits (aka food stamps). They pay the rest of their food bills with income from work. Typically, the food stamps are expended with about a week left in the month. In this crisis, many of the program’s households have lost their jobs, and unemployment benefits were long delayed. Meanwhile, school closures have restricted students’ access to free breakfast and lunch. Few families in the program have cars, so most rely on public transportation to get to stores.
This time, the food came to them.
Gaff’s put together a specially priced package of hamburger, hot dogs, cube steaks, pork chops, chicken leg quarters and breast cutlets, sausages and more for each family in Family Renew’s 32 apartments. The van from Family Renew Community’s Secret Attic Thrift Store stopped by June 8 to pick them up to fill the homeless families’ freezers.
“It has truly been a blessing to receive such a generous package. It has made it much easier to feed me and my children considering the price of meat has gone up tremendously during this pandemic,” said a grateful single mother.
Then Family Renew Community Office Coordinator Kenesha Curry pulled off a feat of logistics by collecting a Sam’s Club order from every family for everything from produce to nonperishables to crates of eggs and cases of water, and arranging for everything to be delivered to the right family on the right campus on July 22. Sam’s bent some rules on per-customer limits and took great care to separate the orders by campus for which they were intended. It was all hands on deck for the program staff to get the food into apartments when it arrived. The heroes of the day were the Zen Moving crew — Brady Koon, Donte Merriweather and Zach Boyer — who literally did the heavy lifting to get the massive food order to DeLand, Daytona Beach and Holly Hill.
“My son and I are grateful for the food we received,” a parent said. “It has helped me out so much as it’s hard to get to stores and especially during COVID-19.”