When Family Promise, an organization that houses families experiencing homelessness until they can get back on their feet, started a branch in Wichita, Kansas, they had everything they needed. Churches were ready to become temporary homes, volunteers were standing by to provide hot meals and hugs. All systems, it appeared, were go.
But there was just one thing. “I got to thinking,” says Darlena March, “what are we going to do if these families have pets?”
It can be a final blow in a worst-case scenario. Imagine losing your home and having to take your family into a single room at a shelter. Then you hear that you can’t bring your pet, a much-loved member of your family. You’re advised to take the pet to a shelter—but the shelter tells you that, due to overcrowding, if you can’t pick up your pet within a certain amount of time, you may not be able to reunite.
‘We Couldn’t Let That Happen’
Darlena knew she had to change that scenario. “My heart is with the families during their struggles,” she says, “and I wanted to bless them by letting them know their pets were safe while they did the hard work of getting back to sustainable living.”
When the assembled group of host churches began offering temporary housing to people in the fall of 2016, Family Promise’s pet fostering program started taking in the furry family members.
Family Promise’s Pet Promise program is indeed a blessing. While families between homes stay in comfortable church housing, they have the relief of knowing that their pets are in the safe and loving home of a volunteer foster.
These fosters bring the pets to a volunteer veterinary service for a checkup, shots, and basic care, send daily updates and photos to the parents and bring the pets to visit their families.
PetSmart Charities Provides Vital Funding
A PetSmart Charities grant helps make all of this possible. Darlena and her team put together a toolkit of what Family Promise of Wichita could do for pets and a set of guidelines for fosters.
“The grant has been extremely useful in building an inventory of supplies,” Darlena says. “We have exactly what we need for each pet. Many times we have to get them food, a bed, a few toys, and we can provide for all their needs right from the start.”
When families graduate from the program, each pet goes to their new home with a welcome gift of food and supplies. “That would normally be an extra expense for a family just getting back on their feet,” Darlena explains. “It’s wonderful to be able to bless them with food and goodies for their pets.”
Darlena and her team feel fortunate to do this work. “We had a four-month old puppy named Minnie in our program,” she says. “I trained her to ring a little bell when she needs to go potty, and we got her through some skin conditions she had. Her family found a new home and graduated from our program, and it filled my heart to be able to bring her back to them.
Family Promise’s work is to keep the family together, and with the Pet Promise program, that means the fur babies, too.