Family Promise: The walk to end homelessness

Family+Promise+Metrowest+hosts+its+13th+annual+Walk+to+End+Homelessness.+Due+to+COVID-19%2C+the+walk+will+be+virtual%2C+and+members+of+Wayland+High+School%E2%80%99s+Family+Promise+Club+are+encouraged+to+join.

Courtesy of Family Promise

Family Promise Metrowest hosts its 13th annual Walk to End Homelessness. Due to COVID-19, the walk will be virtual, and members of Wayland High School’s Family Promise Club are encouraged to join.

By Annabelle Zhang, Wayland High School

With the drastic increase in housing prices and an inert minimum wage, family homelessness in Massachusetts faced a concerning 72% increase from 2007 to 2020. Family Promise is an organization with the goal of ending family homelessness. Within the MetroWest area, they provide courses and programs to assist homeless families and those close to eviction. In order to fundraise and spread awareness, they host events and campaigns, including the Walk to End Homelessness which was held from May 13 to May 15.

“[The Walk to End Homelessness] is a tradition within Family Promise MetroWest, where the communities come together,” Family Promise Club leader Maeve Myles said. “We walk to help raise money and donations to the organization so that they can help families out, house them better and give them as many opportunities as possible.”

The walk is the largest fundraiser for the organization, typically with over 1,000 participants in the MetroWest community. This year, their fundraising goal is $160,000. Nearly all proceeds will go directly into assisting those in need, which is why donations and volunteers are necessary for the foundation’s success.

“We don’t have a lot of overhead for our events,” Family Promise Director of Development Carole Brodrick said. “We get mostly everything donated so that, when you donate, 92 cents of every dollar that you spend goes into directly helping another family. I think that’s pretty remarkable, and you can feel good that you’re really having an impact.”

In addition to the warm feeling of helping families through participating, the event organizers ensure that the event itself is a day full of fun. Since the walk is virtual this year, participants can play scavenger hunt bingo and complete kindness activities to make the walk even more engaging.

“We change [the Walk to End Homelessness] a little bit every year so that it doesn’t get stagnant,” Brodrick said. “In 2020, instead of doing it on Sunday in the morning, we were going to do it in the afternoon after everybody was done with their church services. We were going to have a pizza truck come, and there were more activities for the high schoolers too. I also planned for entertainment going on that day, so we were really stepping it up a little bit to make it be like a really fun afternoon. Then COVID-19 hit.”

Participants of the 2019 Walk to End Homelessness enter the venue. Food and entertainment are provided before beginning the walk itself. “We typically have a radio sponsor who comes in and DJs the event for us, and then we have always had our local Dunkin’ Donuts franchise come and set up a pop up tank,” Family Promise Director of Development Carole Brodrick said. “There’s typically games, face painting and balloon art for kids. It’s really a fun, fun morning.”
(Credit: Courtesy of Carole Brodrick)

Due to the pandemic, the walk was changed to prevent large gatherings. Instead of a group walk held at a specific venue, participants across the MetroWest area walked individually or in smaller groups in their respective neighborhoods.

“In past years, it’s been a marathon type walk where there’s a big group that everybody follows,” Family Promise Club leader Elena Liu said. “It’s a community kind of thing and it’s fun, but because of COVID-19, they’re having everybody do it separately on their own routes all across the town.”

Among other club activities, the Family Promise club at Wayland High School has encouraged its members to register for the walk under the Wayland team or donate to the organization.

“We couldn’t really get that many club members to do it last year because of the pandemic,” Myles said. “This year, we’re going to try to get as many people as possible to actually do the walk, get outside with friends, try to raise awareness and get as many people involved.”

Fundraising efforts will go directly into the support and education of both the parents and kids supported by Family Promise. Programs that teach budgeting, financial literacy and tenancy help adults learn essential skills for survival in modern-day society, while donations go into childcare, scholarships and even driving lessons for those looking to further their education.

“Last year we had 64 families go through our really intensive program,” Brodrick said. “For the families that come into our shelter program, we work to get them stabilized, find out the root cause of what brought them to be homeless, and we get all the medical issues taken care of. Once they’re stabilized, we transition them back out into the community, back into homes of their own and then we continue to help those families by continuing to coach them.”

Although the end of family homelessness is still in the distant future, the people involved in Family Promise, from club members to staff, are helping families across MetroWest and leaving an impact.

“Unfortunately, with the cost of housing in MetroWest, sometimes people just can’t afford the housing,” Brodrick said. “They work in our communities, but they can’t afford to live in our communities, so it’s just really exciting, the energy that we have the day of our walk because people are committed to this mission and helping families get back on their feet.”

If you are interested in donating to the Walk to End Homelessness, the website is linked here.

This story was originally published on Wayland Student Press on May 16, 2022.