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Greene Gives Back: Families Together Interview

Families Together Mission Statement

Families Together is a local non-profit organization, working to eliminate families facing homelessness in the Triangle. We interviewed Jennifer Paul, Development Director of Families Together to hear more about what she and the organization are passionate about and how the local community can help continue their mission.

What is the Mission, Vision, and/or Purpose of Families Together?

The mission of Families Together is to move families in Wake and surrounding counties from homelessness to stable homes through mentoring, housing support and connection to community resources.  

We believe every family deserves a home, and children should never have to wonder where they are going to sleep at night. This is why we connect families to stable homes as quickly as possible – and why we remain connected with them to ensure that they begin the process of bettering their lives. Children experiencing homelessness are more likely to drop out of school, be exposed to violence, and face a host of behavioral, social and health issues. Keeping families together during this traumatic time is critical for their success as well as the community’s. 

What project has Families Together worked on in the past year that you are excited about?

I am proud of how Families Together pivoted during the pandemic to launch an emergency response for homeless families – a population that has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. We played a lead role in our community’s overall response ensuring high risk families could remain together and safe in motel rooms and helped them connect to permanent housing. We didn’t just get them in the door to their own home by providing financial assistance. Our team checked in and checked up for a year with tailored support services to help them achieve long-term housing success.

What are your goals and hopes for Families Together in the next year?

The current goals of Families Together are to:

1. Strengthen and expand our Financial Empowerment and Employment (FEE) program to improve the financial health and employment outcomes of our clients. The FEE team provides one-on-one support with services tailored to meet the family’s financial health goals including credit repair, money management, budgeting, and financial literacy training as well as employment support with job connections, resume building and mock interviews.  

2. Expand our Emergency Shelter capacity – especially where the biggest community gap exists (households with a male above 15 years of age). This includes a new addition to be built with four more apartment units added to our existing six units, plus 15 motel rooms that will be managed by FT for family shelter.

3. Continue planning for a Cottage Court housing development on FT owned land to serve as a mix of permanent rental and transitional housing for extremely low-income families. Preliminary plans have been developed and visioning sessions have been held. Feedback will help create a shared community vision for the Cottage Court. We are currently raising funds for the project and hope to break ground early in 2023.

4. Continue serving as a leading housing support provider in our community’s coordinated response for homeless families. Families Together was selected recently by Wake County for significant funding that will add 7 new positions to our Housing Programs team. This will allow us to provide expanded, comprehensive, low barrier support to families experiencing homelessness. However, we must raise additional dollars to fully fund the work.

5. Grow and maintain a portfolio of Affordable Housing. In the last 2.5 years, we have increased the number of units owned and/or managed by FT from six to 24. We need to complete renovations on 7 units (triplex and duplex on Athens Drive and a duplex on Poole Road) and prepare them for move in as soon as possible. The Athens properties will be used for transitional housing and the Poole Road units will serve as permanent affordable rental housing. 

6. Leverage strategic partnerships with other non-profit housing providers in the Wake Affordable Housing Coalition for broader impact on policy decisions affecting housing and homelessness.

How can the local community partner in your goals and dreams over the next year?

Our work would not be possible without a growing community of partners, donors, volunteers, friends, and supporters. Everyone at Families Together is thrilled and honored to have been selected as the Greene Gives Back community partner this year. This partnership embodies our vision of the community coming together to help more families move from homelessness to home.

There are many ways to engage with Families Together. Donate. Volunteer. Join a committee. Organize a supplies drive. Connect us to landlords. Support local affordable housing projects and policies. Our Volunteer Coordinator looks forward to working with the Greene Resources team to create a volunteer project at one of our properties that could involve landscaping, yard work, painting, or other group activities.  Just email sadie@familiestogethernc.org to get the conversation started. I encourage folks to check out our website at FamiliesTogetherNC.org and/or to follow us @families2gether.

Why Raleigh? What drew you to begin Families Together here?

Raleigh is a fast-growing, beautiful city. But families earning 30% of the area median income and below are finding it harder and harder to keep a roof overhead. Housing that is affordable for this group is rapidly disappearing as rental prices increase at staggering rates – 24% in just the last 12 months. More and more in Wake County, the face of a child is the face of homelessness. Families Together exists for these families. The need for our work to achieve the goals outlined above has never been greater.  

Why are you passionate about the work that you are doing?

I love being part of a community-based organization that makes a life-changing difference, especially for children. I get to meet the people we serve, see children move into our shelter apartment units, and soon come out of isolation. We provide a safe, welcoming space where families can remain together until permanent housing is obtained. Some kids aren’t even aware they are homeless. A child in our program once told me, “Home is life.” To me, there is nothing more meaningful than to be a part of a community that is working together to make home and a better life possible.

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