Family Renew Community has been restoring hope to homeless families with children in Volusia County since 1989. As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we are accomplishing this more effectively and cost-efficiently than ever. In keeping with our mission statement, Family Renew “provides a safe, stable home for homeless families with children, and equips them with the tools they need to be self-sufficient.” This flows from the vision of our founder, the Rev. Larry Redmond of Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, who called upon fellow clergypersons, political and business leaders to find a way not just to shelter families but also to give them a chance to change the direction of their lives. Led by downtown Daytona Beach jeweler Tom Ritzi, this group approached about 200 churches, temples and other houses of worship. Twenty congregations signed on, each agreeing to provide money and volunteer labor to acquire and maintain modest, temporary apartments for families in need, and offer them guidance to improve their economic health. The organization was incorporated as a nonprofit on Sept. 18, 1989, and converted a Holly Hill motel into housing for more than a dozen families. Family Renew Community has grown to include 32 apartments at three sites in Holly Hill, Daytona Beach and DeLand, and professional case managers to guide families out of homelessness. Religious congregations remain involved, complemented by a broad base of secular support. Homelessness prevention services and follow-up for formerly homeless families have been added. As many as 96 percent of families who lifted themselves out of homelessness with our help in recent years remain stably housed. Our current cost per family is significantly less than many similar programs in the U.S. Family Renew’s value to the community is affirmed by our selection for Community Impact funding from the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties.
Through the work of Family Renew Community, about 40 families per year overcome homelessness and dozens more to avoid homelessness or remain stably housed after a prior episode of homelessness. Family Renew does this in part by encouraging parents to work and to earn to their full potential, thereby doing our little part to strength the workforce and build the local economy. Many parents are employed when they approach us for transitional housing, homelessness prevention or follow-up services. Those who are not employed are required to find a job, with our assistance if necessary. Those who are working but not earning enough to meet their family’s housing expenses are assessed for aptitude and desire to train for higher-paying careers. Daytona State College offers tuition waivers for the homeless mothers and fathers we serve, and we have funding partners, including Women United Volusia and the Minto Foundation, who have allowed us to cover other vocation education expenses for mothers and fathers working to lift their families out of homelessness. For instance, one single father experiencing homelessness with his children has started an apprenticeship with the local electrical union. And a mom who stayed with us while experiencing homelessness with her husband and their six children enrolled and graduated from DSC’s law enforcement academy. Our strategy is to end generational cycles of homeless and poverty by providing opportunities for real and permanent change in families’ economic situations. Studies show experiencing homelessness and a child is the leading indicator of whether a person will experience homelessness as an adult. Our vision is that no one who receives our services as a child in a homeless family will ever be a parent in a homeless family.
Family Renew Community moved 32 families, including 65 children, from homelessness to permanent housing in 2018. In 2018, Family Renew implemented a procedure for tracking what happens to families in the months and years after they overcome homelessness with our help. The organization now keeps tabs on every family that was served in the housing program and moved on from the program since Jan. 1, 2017. This is a two-part process. Each January and July, Family Renew uses the Homeless Management Information System maintained by the Volusia-Flagler County Coalition for the Homeless to see whether the families we’ve served have again sought services for homelessness or homelessness prevention. In July, this tracking effort is complemented by a survey of all reachable families. Early indications are that 96 percent of families served in Family Renew’s housing program have stable housing up to 18 months after leaving, plus most have increased their income and many parents have pursued additional education or training. We intend to continue tracking each family for five years to determine a long-term success rate for our interventions. Also in 2018 (and again in 2019), we won a grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families, via the local homeless coalition, to prevent families with children from becoming homeless by providing emergency assistance with housing and utility costs, coupled with guidance to stabilize their financial situations. In another grant-funded expansion of our services in 2018, Family Renew Community launched our Beyond Homelessness initiative to provide continued access to our case managers and other assistance to families when they move out of our housing program and into permanent housing of their own.