INTRODUCTION: Meet Katrina Bostick | Community | Savannah News, Events, Restaurants, Music

Katrina Bostick is from Savannah and has a passion for comforting families dealing with housing insecurity. She is the Executive Director of Family Promise of the Coastal Empire, a local nonprofit that provides essential assistance to families struggling with or on the brink of homelessness. Family Promise serves a wide region, including Liberty, Effingham, Chatham, and Bryan counties.

“Our main mission is to provide help, hope and hospitality to homeless families with children,” explains Bostick. Family Promise intervenes for these families by providing short-term emergency housing. They also have prevention and diversion programs to help stabilize at-risk families.

“We can help a family financially, whether it concerns housing benefit [or] utilities to keep that family housed,” she said. The nonprofit operates a wardrobe and changing room and provides furniture and other supplies to help families in need. Family Promise also has a temporary housing program called Families Forward, which helps former housing insecure families move towards home ownership.

“We work with them over the course of 12 to 18 months. They can live in one of our temporary homes to pay off any additional outstanding debts to really help them achieve that goal of becoming a homeowner,” she continued.

Family Promise provides emergency and temporary housing in Bryan, Chatham and Effingham counties for homeless families. In 2021 alone, Family Promise was able to serve more than 1,500 individuals from nearly 350 families.

Bostick first became involved with Family Promise in 2013 while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in social work from Savannah State University. She was looking for an internship and discovered an opportunity at Interfaith Hospitality Network, the former name of Family Promise. On the advice of her field advisor, she interviewed the organization.

“I enter this building and I see the people. I see children, I see families and I see women,” she recalls. Bostick was interested in working with families, especially single mothers with children. She met the director, who began to explain the program, and the term “homeless” came up. Initially, Bostick was not keen on working with the homeless. Despite her reservations, she continued the interview.

Towards the end of her meeting, the Executive Director asked Bostick if she had any questions. She replied, “Where are the homeless?” The executive director was amazed and asked, “Have you not met our families?” That was a crucial moment for Bostick.

“At that moment the light went out for me because I traditionally did not see that. That’s not what I saw on the streets of Savannah. . . I’ve never seen families with children in our community,” she explained.

“I can honestly say that I started building a bridge between my passion and my goal. . . It really opened my eyes to what the true face of homelessness looked like. It removed all the stigma associated with people dealing with housing insecurity. . . And I began to see these individuals struggling with life challenges for who they really were. Their situation did not define them,” she continued.

The interview was a turning point for Bostick that fueled her passion for the homeless population. She accepted the internship, and after she completed her bachelor’s degree, she continued to volunteer with the nonprofit while pursuing her Masters of Social Work at Valdosta State University.

She graduated in 2015 and returned to Family Promise to inquire about a position. She was offered a small part-time job, which she promptly accepted in June 2015. A few months later, she and her colleagues discovered that the current director was leaving to take up another position.

“They were looking for an interim director and she recommended me,” Bostick recalled, noting that she had other plans at the time.

“I had already started setting up a group home for high-risk women and high-risk teenagers. And I bought the building and everything,” she said.

Still, she attended the meeting with the organization’s board chairman, who encouraged her to think about it. After praying about it, Bostick decided to take up the position. Shortly after, in October 2016, she became the permanent director and has been running Family Promise ever since. Family Promise intervenes for many local families and Bostick is well aligned with the challenges facing families with housing insecurity today.

“There is definitely a housing crisis with rents that have skyrocketed in the past year. Rents in our community have risen to 40%,” she stated.

According to Bostick, families who used to pay about $750 for a two-bedroom apartment are now being asked to pay about $1200 or more for that same apartment. For struggling families, it becomes a tough choice between basic necessities:

“Families really have to decide: should I take care of my child? Do I feed my child? Or do I give my child clothes and shoes? How do I make that decision?”

That difficult decision is a real pain point for at-risk families. Given today’s lack of affordable housing, other populations also face housing problems, especially seniors and people with disabilities.

“We have a growing number of seniors in our community who are now experiencing housing insecurity because they cannot find units to live in. We also have a large number of individuals with disabilities whose incomes are not changing, but rents are,” she explained. .

For all of these groups, people experience wage stagnation as rents rise, effectively pricing them out of viable, affordable housing.

“The minimum wage has not evolved over the years, but housing has. . . In our community, how do we really ensure that families have the opportunity to thrive?” she asked. Bostick notes that many of the problems facing families and individuals with precarious housing are systemic.

“When we think about redlining in our community [and] how that really impacted housing for African Americans and minorities in our community, it’s layered. It’s not something we know we can change over the course of five or ten years. It didn’t happen overnight,’ Bostick said.

She recommends changemakers examine policies that have traditionally disadvantaged certain groups to determine how progressive action can be taken to protect the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.

“We want to be able to highlight the challenges faced by our families so that we can work with our local and state governments to support them and identify policies we can address to remove those barriers,” she said.

Bostick believes that influencing local policies is one of the most effective ways to help and empower families with housing insecurity, in addition to providing services. Anyone who wants to help Family Promise intervene for at-risk families can do so by contributing through monetary donations or by volunteering their time.

“We can’t do the work we do without financial support,” says Bostick. Family Promise needs funding to remain well staffed and to provide shower and laundry services, as well as Internet and transportation services.

Bostick encourages everyone to be grateful for what they have, because it only takes one crisis to risk becoming homeless.

“There may be a time in your life when you have a crisis and you have exhausted all your resources and support. You may need a family pledge, so don’t take what you have for granted, because anytime it could definitely be ours. Keep praying for the families in crisis that they will get through that crisis and become stable,” she added.

To learn more about Family Promise, the work they do, and how you can get involved, visit familypromisece.org/.

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