BILLINGS — COVID-19 has impacted so many aspects of our lives, from our health to the economy, and one Billings nonprofit has seen the impact firsthand.
Over the last year, Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley has seen a spike in demand for its services helping homeless families get back on their feet.
Family Promise graduate Kathryn Otteson knows how it feels to be homeless.
“It’s just incredible for what they’ve done for my family,” Otteson said.
It was back in 2019 when her then-boyfriend lost his job and then their only vehicle broke down.
The couple, along with their nine-year-old daughter, couldn’t afford to pay rent and were forced to stay at a local motel.
“It took a lot of pride to sit at the Bourbon. It’s not the best hotel, especially for a family,” Otteson said.
She saw a commercial for Family Promise, and it changed her life forever.
“It was my last hope. I was like, I’m going to try this and if it doesn’t work at least I tried. But it did,” Otteson said.
Otteson is one of the hundreds of clients that Family Promise has helped become financially independent.
“We have an 87% long-term success rate with the families that we work with,” said Family Promise Development Coordinator Felicia Burg.
The nonprofit offers services like emergency housing, transitional housing, and life classes for homeless families.
Their mission in 2021 was more important than ever.
“2021 was a big year. The need for service in our community has grown so much,” Burg said.
Family Promise is in the middle of expanding its housing services because the need has been so great.
“There was over 40% increase in calls for service to our organization just this last year,” Burg said.
The rise in evictions from apartments in Montana following last year's expiration of the eviction moratorium has not helped.
“Over 60% of the clients that came into our shelter were from evictions,” said Burg.
Family Promise works with 32 congregations across Billings, along with about 60-to-70 volunteers a week to break the cycle of poverty.
Their focus on families isn’t limited to housing.
“The other gap that we noticed several years ago was the diaper need in our community,” Burg said.
In 2020, Family Promise handed out 100,000 diapers. That number tripled to 300,000 in 2021.
“The great thing about it is the whole diaper bank is ran by donations in the community,” said Burg.
These services help families like Otteson’s break out of generational poverty.
Otteson — who now works at Family Promise as the office assistant — says she's been able to pay off nearly $30,000 in student loans.
“It’s actually incredible that I can pay that now and I take a lot of pride in paying it, 'cause they taught me how to do it,” Otteson said.
Her family is now building their own house with Habitat for Humanity.
Otteson is now doing for others what Family Promise did for her.
“I just go home in awe every day. We can help so many people. It’s incredible,” Otteson said.
If you would like to be a part of Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley, visit Family Promise | Facebook.