Shannon and Bradley Taylor moved from Ohio to Chattanooga to be near his mother, who needed surgery, and other family members in Tennessee and Atlanta. The couple and their 1-year-old grandson slept in a car and then at the Chattanooga Rescue Mission for five days before getting into Family Promise of Chattanooga.
Weeks later, while at Family Promise, Bradley Taylor became the first recipient of the Mission Accomplished: Stable Housing M.A.S.H. grant through Volunteer Behavioral Health. The couple expect to move into their new three-bedroom, two-bath home in Brainerd this month.
Taylor, a U.S. Air Force veteran whose housing situation has been unstable, was so excited that he cried.
"This is incredible," he said. "I anticipated that God would work something out before Christmas."
The couple expects to move into the home Dec. 21. If that happens, Taylor's 5-year-old daughter will come to live with them on Christmas Day.
The Taylor family is among 50 to 60 families -- at least 150 individuals a year -- that Family Promise has helped with Emergency Food and Shelter Program funding.
This year Hamilton County received $132,496 to supplement local emergency food and shelter programs. The United Way of Greater Chattanooga and a board made up of several nonprofit agency representatives will decide how the money will be distributed. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31.
Eleven agencies received funds in 2013.
"The whole goal is to assist vulnerable populations, [veterans, families with children, elderly mentally ill and the disabled] and connect them to permanent housing," said Mary Ellen Galloway, Family Promise executive director.
All agencies are struggling with shrinking funding, said Eileen Robertson Rheberg, the United Way's director of community impact, data analysis and strategy. Hamilton County is fortunate to have this fund, which has been distributed annually for some 30 years,she said.
Emergency food and shelter funding has helped the Salvation Army provide money to assist people with their utilities, supplied families with food through Signal Mountain Social Services helped Catholic Charities provide families with rent payments and mortgages.
The funding is "critical" to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen's emergency winter shelter, said Vanessa Blevins, that organization's director of finance.
The kitchen has spent more than $157,000 in one year for utilities. Any money that can help offset that is helpful, she said.
Blevins said more than 600 people used the shelter last year, and those people might not have had another place to sleep if the emergency shelter was not available.
The funds help to provide shelter, food and warm showers, but the agencies who use the money are working to change people's lives, she said. Sometimes that begins with being able to buy a blanket or provide a mat on the floor.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6431.