Faith Network of Franklin County

Faith Network of Franklin County Executive Director Sheila Andrews (left) and founder Sherry Scott stand by the welcome sign at last year’s gala, which raised $20,000 for the nonprofit.

Homelessness is something that some families Franklin County are currently facing. The Faith Network of Franklin County is working to end that cycle of poverty and provide a safety net to put families on a path to stability.

“The homeless population in Franklin County is unseen so you don’t think about it,” said Sheila Andrews, Faith Network’s executive director. “Here in Franklin County you don’t see them. They are either in the woods, barns or doubling up with family.”

Faith Network formed in early 2017, when school social worker Sherry Scott saw children in need. Scott got the county’s faith community together and the nonprofit was born.

In March 2018, Faith Network hired Sheila Andrews as program manager. She then was promoted to executive director earlier this year.

“It’s very true people in Franklin County and throughout the country are living on the edge,” Andrews said. “It just takes one thing, a car breaking down, losing your job or becoming ill to cause homelessness.”

In 2018, Faith Network served 166 households in Franklin County. They provided emergency food to 111 families; 75 families were provided with 75 nights of shelter in hotel rooms. They also assisted 10 families with automobile repairs and 18 emergency auto fuel assistance, which enabled them to keep their jobs.

Another 55 families were able to stay in their homes when Faith Network provided emergency financial support and a mentor.

Faith Network’s program is a five-step process. The client first is referred to Faith Network, and the program manager assesses his case. The individual then consents to the services, and a plan is created with goals that he needs to accomplish in the next 90 days. Step three is when the client is assigned a trained volunteer mentor.

Mentoring takes place for at least 90 days. And in the final step, the mentor helps with budgeting, obtaining housing and employment, as well as food and transportation.

“Mentors help by providing a positive, healthy relationship,” Andrews said. “Once someone signs up for services, they get a mentor. Mentors give the individuals more of a voice. They go to social services meetings or court if necessary.”

Poverty can be a cycle of behavior, Andrews said. Mentors give guidance and help clients respond differently to issues that arise, which can help break that cycle.

“Our main goal at Faith Network is for people to have stable housing and to have stability and not be homeless,” Andrews said.

To help as many people in the community as possible, Faith Network is hosting its second annual Faith Gala on Aug. 24 at Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Mountain Room.

Money is raised through ticket sales, silent and live auctions at the event and sponsorships, which are still available and range from $250 to $2,500. Tickets are $35 per person, $60 per couple or $325 for a table.

The semi-formal event starts at 6 p.m. and includes live music by Roger Handy.

Last year’s event raised $20,000 and this year, Andrews said they are hoping to raise $25,000 to $30,000.

More information can be found at fcfaithnetwork.org or by calling 420-2560.