When Scott Houser first began talking about Faith Family Hospitality (FFH), it seemed like an enormous endeavor! Hosting four families for a week required a team of at least 60 volunteers. They would provide dinner every night, be present with the families during the evening hours, and spend the night with them in the church. In addition, there was set-up and clean-up of the rooms (including cleaning bathrooms), laundry to do, and breakfast/lunch supplies to provide. Heart of the Rockies Christian Church had been hosting for some time and needed a partner. Scott’s enthusiastic and faith-filled presence made all of this seem possible.
In the early years we traded sites, hosting one time at HRCC and the next at Plymouth. It became evident that Plymouth was blessed with more space and even showers, so we shifted to hosting at Plymouth on a regular basis, with HRCC providing active and faithful partnership.
The two of us started by cooking and serving a meal one night of the week. We then took on the evening host role. In those years, we were able to play games with the kids, engage them in crafts, and chat with the families. Now with COVID in the picture, we are trying to be as flexible as we can be.
We eventually got up the courage to spend the night with the families. Although this seemed daunting, we found it quite easy. There are sometimes emergencies that come up, but those are rare, and there is a well-defined “who to call” list. These times gave us more opportunities to connect with families, either in the evening as they were settling in for the night or in the morning, as they were grabbing coffee and something for breakfast or lunch. Although we are trained to be sensitive to people’s privacy and not ask too many questions, casual conversations have helped us see the many circumstances that bring families to where they are and their courage and good humor in dealing with their situation. We have been particularly impressed with how these parents, often single parents, work to make this stressful and uncertain situation as comfortable and secure for their kids as possible.
In the last several years, FFH has become the “overnight program” part of Family Housing Network (FHN): a network of programs that support families experiencing homelessness. We are particularly impressed with the case management and counseling provided to the families, helping them discover and take the steps needed to get back into sustainable housing. Our hearts are warmed, knowing that the hospitality we provide is giving these families the breathing room to work out their path forward. In 2021, FHN achieved an 83% success rate in helping families become stabilized and permanently housed. Furthermore, 100% of these families continue to be housed after one year. Moving from homelessness to stable housing is always joyful! We celebrate when a family “graduates” from the FHN program. It is a sacred event that not only changes their lives, but also blesses our own. Volunteering with FFH is not just charity; it is a life-giving ministry.
In the past year, Scott Houser, who has been such a faithful leader over the years, has decided to step back a little, although he is still very much involved. His shoes are hard to fill! We decided to take on a part of what he has been doing. Lynnette Thayer continues to be a dedicated and valued coordinator from HRCC, and Janeen and David Stubbs have also taken on a leadership role. As coordinators, we are getting acquainted with the remarkable staff at FHN and all the other congregations with which we partner in FFH. We know in our hearts that this ministry is a faith journey, for us personally and for Plymouth as a faith community.
We still have open slots for our next host week, July 17-24. Please contact us to volunteer or for more information.
Mary and Ken Freese
Communications Coordinators for FFH
Mary and Ken came to Fort Collins in 2009 and soon became members of Plymouth. They have been members of the choir, the Celtic Spirituality Group, and each has served on the Leadership Council. In addition to working with FFH, Mary served on the Outreach and Mission Board, and Ken served on the Christian Formation Board.