“I tried not to cry in front of my kids.”
These are the words of a Whatcom County mother whose family became homeless one summer, after a series of unforeseeable events — their longtime rental home was deemed unfit due to mold, the woman’s mother died, and her husband got pneumonia and spent a week in the hospital. With no other options, she, her husband, and their four children began sleeping in their car.
Daytimes, if they had gas, they’d take the kids to parks. “I tried to make it seem like we were having fun,” she says. “But I was freaking out because we had no place to live.”
Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County, a group of more than 40 churches, a synagogue, and other local partners, was able to provide several weeks of emergency housing for the family while the parents worked toward a long-term solution. The family is now in an apartment.
“The kids were so excited,” their mother says. “My husband is looking for work. I’m going to school. I want to work in human services. I could help others, because I’ve been there. I’m grateful.”
Since its founding in 1981, Interfaith has been a game-changer in the lives of local families like this one. Now in its 40th year, Interfaith has nine employees, 1,500 volunteers, 13 emergency and transitional housing units, and several programs, all of which work to empower families out of poverty and into homes.
In 2020, Interfaith housed 23 families, including 49 children, in its emergency and transitional housing. Interfaith is also able to shelter additional families (13 families, including 26 children, in 2020) via its Family Promise program, which houses families in Covid-safe, static locations as they work toward self-sufficiency.
Interfaith, funded almost entirely by local donations, brings together people in need with people who have abundant resources. As former executive director and current volunteer Laura Harker says, “We connect folks who want to donate or volunteer with folks needing help. Interfaith is truly neighbor helping neighbor.”
Interfaith volunteers and staff know they represent the whole. Shannon Laws, Interfaith’s family housing coordinator, speaks of the joy of working with families.
“When a family thanks me for the home, for our Family Housing program, they’re really thanking thousands of donors and volunteers,” Laws says. “When I get a hug, it’s a hug for [everyone].”
According to current volunteer and former Interfaith board member Barbara Mathers-Schmidt, the goal is for everyone to have a home, food, and the dignity that comes from experiencing self-reliance while being a part of a community.
“Those able to donate are luckier than they know,” says the Whatcom County mother whose family found housing through Interfaith. “It would be awesome to be able to help.”
Find out how you can help by visiting interfaith-coalition.org.
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