This month we’re highlighting the great work of our partners at Families Moving Forward, and specifically, how our corps member Cecilia Too is serving with them this year. To learn more about FMF, visit their website at https://fmfnc.org/.
Families Moving Forward (FMF) is an emergency homeless shelter for families. FMF utilizes a two generational, trauma-informed approach. FMF’s approach is two generational because they focus on supporting both the parent and child, which ultimately leads to better outcomes for the whole family. FMF also utilizes a trauma-informed approach, meaning that they provide services in such a way that acknowledges families’ history of trauma.
FMF serves up to 21 families in their shelter program, NEST, which stands for Neighbors Experiencing Success Together. NEST is FMF’s core program that provides temporary shelter to families with children who are experiencing homelessness.
In the NEST, each family receives their own private room. They are also paired with a Family Services Coordinator (FSC) who works closely with them to develop a personalized plan so that the family can become more self-sufficient and secure safe and affordable permanent housing. FSC’s work with the families to secure permanent housing by working with them to secure housing referrals and advocate for families during the housing application process.
Once a family secures permanent housing, they exit the NEST and enter the Branching Out program. Branching Out, which stands for Building Relationships To Anchor Our Transitions, is the aftercare program designed to prevent families from re-experiencing homelessness and facilitate long term stability. Families receive aftercare services for up to 18 months after exiting shelter.
My role at FMF as Programming Associate is to coordinate Adult Programming for both NEST and Branching Out. I work to find volunteer facilitators from the community who facilitate evening programming for our guests. The program topics are diverse, ranging from Landlord Tenant Rights to Zumba dance to Art Therapy. Some programs are designed to empower guests with knowledge, while others provide a relaxing space for parents to decompress. I also work to encourage parents to sign up for programming and manage the programming calendar.
One of my favorite parts of my role is working together with coworkers to plan fun Family Programming for our families. Some notable Family Programs I have helped plan are Pumpkin Painting and Valentine’s Day Pop Up Card Making. I have found that parents in shelter truly value the opportunity to spend quality time engaged in a fun activity with their kids, and it is so rewarding to be part of creating opportunities for that to happen.
Developing relationships with guests in shelter has also been incredibly rewarding. Since my office is actually located within the NEST, I often find myself right in the middle of the everyday chaos of our families’ lives. I often hear babies crying down the hallway and overhear parental discipline in action. There are also a couple of toddlers whose favorite pastime is banging on my office’s glass wall. No matter how many times it happens, I jump out of my seat every time! Although the chaos can be overwhelming at times, I still enjoy the chats I have with families and hearing about what’s going on in their life. On top of experiencing homelessness, families often are juggling many other crises. I have come to truly respect the perseverance and strength of our families. When families finally secure permanent housing and move out, I feel so happy for them and celebrate, even if it is bittersweet to say goodbye.
I have learned so much during my year with FMF so far and look forward to the rest of my time here. FMF is an amazing organization doing hard, important work in Durham, and I am so thankful that I have been placed with them this year.