Affectionately playing with their Miniature Dachshunds, Joey, Lisa Stapp and her son, Billy, praised the family pet after he rolled over on command.
Amidst laughing, talking and feeding Joey treats, their quietly strong spirits and sincere gratitude is evident as they look at each other.
Stapp, 57, and Billy, 14, are part of Family Promise’s program in Scottsdale, a nonprofit organization that helps homeless families, and their pets, get back on their feet.
After losing their north Scottsdale home, being evicted from a condo, and then staying with a friend nearby, Stapp said she had no other options until the phone rang, as she was sitting in her car packed with her belongings, with a chance for hope on the other end.
“It was looking really bad,” said Stapp, 57, who also suffers from a rare auto-immune disease. “I was just sitting at a park thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’”
As she tucked back her short, light-blonde hair on a warm Thursday morning, Stapp said she doesn’t know where she and Billy would be without the program.
During the day, the program’s small amount of families spend the day at the south Scottsdale organization’s day center. There the families have a common area to relax in, laundry rooms, a counseling center for career training and guidance, kitchens, bathrooms, and a “pet sanctuary” where the family dog or cat can stay. The small, single-level, re-purposed apartment complex provides a playground, dog track, basketball court, vegetable and herb garden and other amenities.
During the evenings, the families are sent over to area churches that serve as places to sleep every night for a week. This year, Family Promise is on track to help nearly 100 families.
“When we got here, they were so kind to us,” Stapp said. “Within an hour, we had everything we needed. Our clothes were in the washer and dryer, they fed us, they brought us drinks, and they treated us like we were royalty.”
About 25 Valley churches are part of the rotation for Family Promise, with Ahwatukee churches like Mountain Park Community Church, Foothills Baptist, and Desert Foothills United Methodist, among others, involved.
On June 23, St. Benedict Parish will be hosting families for two consecutive weeks, offering a safe place to sleep, food, transportation and activities.
“It’ll give our volunteers the opportunity to really get to know our families,” said organizer Diane Orban, of St. Benedict.
“It’s very humbling,” said Suzanne Percy, development director at St. Benedict. “It doesn’t take much to put people there, and puts it into perspective of how hard life can be.”
According to Family Promise, one in 250 individuals in Maricopa County are homeless.
Previously staying at Foothills Baptist and is now at another church’s rotation, Stapp said her confidence has been given a boost since starting the program four weeks ago. Another unexpected surprise was the true sense of family she and Billy have encountered.
“Everyone sticks together here, and we help each other out,” said Stapp of the two families she is sharing a space with at the day center. “It’s just like home here.”
St. Benedict is located at 16223 S. 48th St. in Ahwatukee. Family Promise will be hosted for two consecutive weeks at the Catholic church, starting June 23.
For more information about Family Promise, visit familypromiseaz.org.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.