Written by Ben Story, AmeriCorps Member
Faith Family Hospitality, at it’s very core, exists to unite a group of diverse faith communities to support local service agencies in meeting the temporary housing needs of families in our community who are experiencing homelessness.
Most faith communities are engaged on a variety of different levels in community outreach and service. And yet, often they are unaware of the extent of need or the challenges faced by those in their community needing access to services. An important part of working with the faith community is to help individuals see the bigger picture and look beyond the walls of their silos to the greater needs of those they live and work alongside. In order to do this it is important to foster a sense of citywide partnership, while increasing the level of community engagement.
When FFH formed, there was already a healthy level of collaboration among the local human services agencies in Fort Collins. They were well acquainted with the high need for the unique shelter and support services provided by FFH to families. However, being a new ‘player’ at the table, FFH was not well known and lacked consistent representation at a citywide level. Further, with only a single part-time staff member, and a board stretched by the demands of overseeing the establishment of its programs, the ability to focus and develop broader relationships has been a challenge.
Over the course of the year that I served FFH, I have begun to build and foster important relationships with our member congregations, and actively seek ways in which we can increase our partnership with other agencies. I have spent time meeting with Pastors, Executive Directors and agency staff, sat on committees, represented us at inter-agency meetings and built relationships with our volunteers. My position with AmeriCorps has afforded me the flexibility to not only think about meeting the daily housing needs of the families that we serve but also to focus on establishing and cementing connections across the city that will enable us, as we grow, to play more of a key role in identifying and implementing more long term solutions. In each meeting or communication, I intently listened and learned – looking for ways that our network of faith communities might become more engaged.
While no one meeting or connection appears particularly significant, the collective impact of greasing the wheels is that each entity involved is a little better informed and more inclined to think beyond the pursuit of their own individual success. FFH is more broadly recognized as a key player in meeting the needs of our community’s homeless, and we are more consistently called to the table by key agencies. It has been my privilege over this last year to support the congregations in FFH in this effort to meet the needs of those we serve, regardless of affiliation, in a way that builds a thriving collaborative community.