HELENA — Although the dorms at Carroll College this summer are quiet, they’re not empty.
Family Promise is a local nonprofit organization helping women and children in need this summer by teaming up with Carroll College to benefit families facing homelessness.
One Helena woman, Kimberly Patterson, is staying at Borromeo Hall thanks to the partnership between Carroll and Family Promise.
“I am a single mom. I’ve been a single mom for the last 12 years, and I have two daughters, 15 and 12,” said Patterson. Patterson spoke openly about her stay at Carroll and how it’s greatly impacted both herself and her family’s life.
Patterson continued: “It has absolutely been fantastic. First off, it’s a fairly spacious room. There [are] bunk beds for the girls, and there’s another smaller room where I have kind of a little bit of privacy.”
Patterson moved to Helena from Florida in pursuit of a new life but, due to unexpected health issues, was forced to leave work and struggled financially, leaving herself and her daughters searching for a place to call their own.
“When it’s just you, it’s a lot easier,” Patterson continued, “but […] I was scared for my girls.”
Since 2011, Family Promise has successfully helped 90 families become sustainable and independent.
Glenna Wortman-Obie, the executive director of Family Promise, said, “Whenever there are children involved, […] part of our mission [is] to make sure that […] their needs are met.”
Family Promise can help a maximum of four families at a time, but with over 600 volunteers through various churches and other resources, they do their best to aid everyone they can.
Mary Larsen works with First Christian Church, one of the churches that works closely with Family Promise, and told MTN News that each church strives to provide a private space for families.
“It depends on the church’s layouts, sometimes it is with partitions, sometimes it’s with individual rooms,” said Larsen. “We did even one year have a church that did not have any individual rooms, so we set up pop-up tents for the family.”
For volunteers like Larsen, the perception of homelessness is not always as it seems and quite often is due to unforeseen circumstances. Larsen continued, “I think the stigma of homelessness and the stereotype we have of homelessness is what causes some of our inability to effect change.”
Carroll College and Family Promise are doing their best to take the first steps at addressing the stereotype of homelessness in the Helena community.
Chris Fuller, the dean of mission integration and effectiveness at Carroll College, said in addition to providing lodging, they also have student volunteers to help the residents with tasks like cooking and cleaning.
“It gives the families a little stability,” said Fuller. “It gives Family Promise a bit of a break from having to do that week-to-week planning, from each lodging site, and it also gives the churches a bit of a break during the year in terms of their rotation being a lodging site.”
For Patterson, the experience at Carroll provided more than just a roof over her head and food on the table.
“They sit with us. We talk. We’ve actually become very good friends, and my kids are just looking up to them as well,” said Patterson. She is currently on a waiting list to rent her own apartment and intends to move her family into their own home in just a few weeks.
“Whenever a family leaves, it’s bittersweet, but they will always remain a part of our family here at Family Promise,” said Wortman-Obie.
-Reported by Christine Sullivan/MTN News