What a ride it has been. A year ago I saw a new acronym OVOF (One Village One Family) and learned of a new program just being started at Foothills Unitarian Church in collaboration with Homeless Gear. I sent an email expressing curiosity and within seconds, I swear, Gretchen texted me asking if I would be a Village Lead. Gretchen’s enthusiasm is hard to resist and without further thought, I agreed. And I am so glad I did! It has been an interesting, rewarding, challenging, and very meaningful year.
Six Foothills Villages have been trained since May, but it has been common that Villages are not assigned to families right away. In our case, it turned out to take several months. That gave us time to do the necessary fund-raising. Originally, we were five Foothills Villages and each needed to raise $1500 that would help support our family to pay their security deposit or first month’s rent. Families admitted to the OVOF program must have sufficient income to pay rent, but they often do not have the savings to allow them to pay these extra fees. This initial, one time, support can make all the difference between persistent homelessness and stable housing.
To raise funds, Foothills started by devoting one month’s Share the Plate with the Foothills-OVOF program. Our almost 30 OVOF Village members then organized a fun and tasty pancake breakfast, donut give-away/donation stations at the Quail Hollow Neighborhood Garage Sale, and a family pizza evening at Odell Brewing Company. Between these few events, we raised the funds needed to support six families! While the Foothills OVOF Village members were responsible for the pancake breakfast, others, especially the Men’s Group, helped us out by cooking the sausage and pancakes. King Soopers, Lamar’s Donuts, Odell’s, and Domino’s were some of the other community businesses that have aided our endeavors. These few events enabled us to raise the start-up funds we needed.
My Village met our family at the end of August – right after this single mom had procured housing for herself and four teenage daughters. We helped her move, and get new tires donated for their suburban, a new car battery, some essential furniture, a laptop, and food. There were ups and downs, but we all enjoyed celebrating this family’s graduation last month as they met all the goals they had set for our six month One Village One Family partnership. There will still be challenges for this family, but they are in a much better place than they were when we met.
This is the tale of one of our six Villages, and each Village has a tale to tell with similarities and differences. There is no consistent pattern – each family has its unique challenges. But they all are so grateful for the support our Foothills Villages have provided as they searched for and obtained housing and worked to remain stable. These families now sleep in their own beds in their own homes. All of the participants, both Village members and our families, have expressed enthusiasm for this project. Many of the Foothills Village members have agreed to mentor a new family after a short break. A six month mentor commitment sounds long, but really the time flew by.
Newspapers are full of horror stories of the scarcity of affordable housing and the impact on the homeless. Foothills Unitarian Church has helped six families – six single women and 23 children find housing and begin to live more independent lives. Five of those families have remained stably housed for at least 6 months. Thanks to the Foothills-OVOF partnership, these moms and their children are no longer are living on the streets, in playgrounds, or couch surfing.
Our long-term plan is to have two or three Foothills Villages/year to sustain our impact on reducing homelessness in our community. I am proud of our church for taking on this project. I encourage others to consider joining One Village One Family. You won’t do it alone – you will have a Village at your side every step of the way.
If you are interested, you can make a difference by joining one of our upcoming Villages – please contact Gretchen.
Jane Everham, OVOF Village Lead
Anne Fisher, Foothills/OVOF Village Liaison