Mount Ellis Academy Hosts Summer Homeless Program

Mount Ellis Academy is home to many academy students during the school year, but during one month in the summer, the school decided to open their doors to another group of people—homeless families.

The academy works in conjunction with Family Promise of Gallatin Valley, an interfaith hospitality network and part of a nationwide organization that provides care for homeless families with children. Nine different church denominations in the Gallatin Valley work together to provide these services.

The normal rotation schedule for the network is a week at each church, but since Mount Ellis Academy can only open the dormitory during the summer they have been given one month each year.

A typical day for a family is eating breakfast in the dormitory with the help of the overnight host and then loading into the Family Promise van to go spend the day at the family day center in town. There, they can continue their search for affordable housing, receive financial or other counseling, and look for jobs if they are not already employed. At the end of the day they come back to the dormitory for the evening meal that is provided by a church volunteer who stays and eats with them. Then at bedtime another volunteer family or couple arrives to spend the night and hosts until the next morning.

Family Promise is not a hand-out, but a "hand-up" ministry. In order to receive assistance, the individuals must have at least one dependent child, be drug- and alcohol-free, and sign a 90-day contract that they will work with the Family Promise social worker toward a solution to their unique situation.

The program has an 80 percent success rate, meaning that the family is successfully re-integrated back into the community as a contributing, self-sufficient unit.

This year the Seventh-day Adventist Church was represented by at least 70 volunteers who attended a three-hour training session to help them understand the situation of homeless families and how to relate effectively and compassionately. They were blessed as they spent many hours with a family of 11 children, ages 4 months to 12 years. The family was grateful for the month they spent on the campus of the academy.

As she was packing up to move to the next church, the mother of this family exclaimed, "I want to come back and visit your group. You've taken such good care of us." Kind of reminds you of John 13:35: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

If you would like to know more about Family Promise or how your church can become part of the network, see the Web site

Featured in: September 2008