Support Circles are small groups of parishioners who create a network of love and support for families in transition from homelessness. This ministry allows parishioners to develop a relationship with a homeless family over a long period of time, with the goal of supporting them while they’re in crisis, helping with needed resources and skills, and empowering them to move toward greater financial security. We currently have two active Support Circles.
The Support Circle program is run by Catholic Charities, which screens families who are unhoused and connects them with local congregations. Once housing is found, the parish provides a portion of the family’s rent each month for one year to help the family stabilize financially. Each family’s situation is different, and teams respond flexibly to the needs and priorities of the family.
The most important work of the team is to develop relationships with the family and empower them to achieve their goals. We walk with the family rather than doing for them. In general, Support Circle teams work with families on issues such as the following:
-Securing permanent housing;
-Improving their ability to earn more through job skills training;
-Learning budgeting and how to manage household finances;
-Addressing child care and transportation issues;
-Improving access to needed health and social services;
-Providing support that fosters the family’s strengths;
-Offering emotional and spiritual support.
- Contact: Ellen Ferrone, 858-531-9797
- Time Commitment: One year. Includes regular contacts with family and monthly ministry meetings
- Gifts: Listening, working with people, mentoring, patience, persistence, willingness to help find community support.
“The Hands and Feet of Christ, in the Year of Mercy”
By Ellen Ferrone, St. Francis parishioner, and Trevor Thompson, Director of Justice and Peace
Have you seen Christ’s hands or feet recently?
Have you looked? Maybe they are yours?
For a number of years now, St. Francis has partnered with Catholic Charities to help transition homeless families to stability through a program called Support Circles. Support Circles are small groups of parishioners who create a network of love and support – hands and feet of Christ – for families in transition from homelessness. This ministry allows parishioners to develop a relationship with a homeless family over a long period of time, with the goal of supporting them while they’re in crisis, helping with needed resources and skills, and empowering them to move toward greater financial security.
Currently, ten parishioners are part of a Support Circle walking with a woman named Alysha and her children. Alysha and her children had lived in a hotel room for over a year. The family moved into a 3 bedroom home on January 29th.
This home became a reality because of the generosity of this parish. From the prayers to the furnishings, from the rental assistance to the hands who helped move the family into the house, from the donation of the moving truck by Linda Craft Realty to the holiday donations as part of our Advent Giving Tree – can you see the hands and feet of Christ at work here? I can! Our January move day concluded with many tears of joy from Alysha, her children, and all who helped. It was a real community effort, the hands and feet of Christ alive in our world.
Since Alysha and her children got moved into the home, the Support Circle has turned to the challenges of support Alysha and her children through connecting them to social services, providing tutoring, helping with transportation, supporting budget keeping, and accompanying Alysha to find better employment. The most important work of the team is to develop relationships with the family and empower them to achieve their goals. We walk with the family rather than doing for them. While there are many fruits of this ministry, the goal everyone is praying for is that the family is able to achieve some sense of peace, empowerment, and independence. This vision of success doesn’t always come to fruition, but this ministry has changed my life and many of our St. Francis parishioners. When your hands get messy with love and mercy with the people in need in our community, we are promised, they really become like Christ’s hands.
Does this ministry sound like something you are feeling called to?
We are starting another Support Circle this spring with a single mother of three children who has been living at the Salvation Army, working hard to get housing, and get back on her feet. This is a perfect opportunity for you to get your hands and feet a little messy with mercy.