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Terry Comp: Help is on the way

Posted: February 19, 2010 5:29 p.m.
Updated: February 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
As a regular follower of The Signal, I read with great interest Linda Malerba's opinion column on Feb. 12 about homelessness.

To Malerba and all the other Santa Clarita residents who care about the many hard-working families in our community who are not able to keep their heads above water in these tough times, I would like to say this: Additional help is on the way for homeless families in the Santa Clarita Valley.

As Linda stated: "Who knew there were families that are homeless in Santa Clarita?" I, for one, was shocked to learn recently that a 2009 survey of students in the William S. Hart High School District revealed some 850 homeless students.

While some of these families may be living with friends or relatives, others may be sleeping in their cars. In any event, they don't have an address they can call their own.

I am grateful a group of concerned citizens in the SCV finds this fact simply unacceptable, and is doing what it takes to tackle the problem.
Enter Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley. Family Promise is an evolving affiliate of a national organization that operates in more than 150 communities across the U.S.

In each network, congregations in the community come together through a program called Interfaith Hospitality Network to extend hospitality, while leveraging local resources to address the underlying causes of homelessness and get people back on their feet. This often means providing support to adult family members in job search, credit repair or finding affordable housing.

Forming a partnership with the SCV Emergency Winter Shelter, Lutheran Social Services and more SCV service providers, we will offer hope and compassion while helping the families achieve sustainable independence.

The good news is that about a dozen congregations in our valley are already actively involved. (Our local network is in the development stage, and hopes to be ready to receive guests later this year).

Five diverse local congregations have committed to helping with overnight lodging, meals and hospitality for one week, four times a year.

Another five congregations have agreed to support the host sites with volunteers and other donations. One local business has even offered to provide haircuts and styling for the family members during their stays.

Best of all, the Santa Clarita citizens who have gotten involved so far are anything but "one size fits all." They include members of a number of different Christian traditions and denominations and a Jewish synagogue.

New churches and temples are being approached and added regularly. People are putting their religious differences aside to lend a helping hand, while learning in the process: Our similarities are greater than our perceived differences, and the rewards of working together far outweigh the costs.

Family Promise of SCV - www.familypromisescv.org - has yet to welcome guests, as we need additional congregations and financial support. But when we are ready to launch the program, you can be sure the rewards will be considerable.

These will undoubtedly include the joy of knowing you have helped to provide a family and their children with a clean, comfortable bed and a warm meal.

It will also mean the satisfaction of working hand-in-hand with others in our community to achieve a goal that is much bigger than we are.
Good people from all walks of life in Santa Clarita, working together to help other good people who are temporarily unable to make ends meet - this is what the Interfaith Hospitality Network is all about.

Ask Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami, Pastor Ray Davis of North Oaks Church of Christ or Father Olin Mayfield at St. Clare's Catholic Church.

Check it out with Pastor Brandon Beard of Real Life Church, Pastor John Shaver of Valencia United Methodist or Pastor Greg Garman of Newhall Church of the Nazarene.

More help is indeed on the way for homeless SCV families, and helping them will help us all. This is true because as people of faith working together, we can achieve more than we thought possible to improve the quality of life for all of us who call this valley home.

Terry Comp is a volunteer with Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley and member of Valencia United Methodist Church. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. She can be reached at tcomp@ltcperformance.com.

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