All it Takes: Steve and Nick's Story

Families with children are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, making up almost 50% of those who are experiencing homelessness in Kent County. 

Heart of West Michigan United Way’s 2016 Agency Partner of the Year, Family Promise, partners with families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by helping them get back on their feet so they can create a stable lifestyle for their children.

Steve spent 12 years working construction and 8 years as an auto parts manufacturer in Battle Creek, until he began to suffer from arthritis and back pain that required surgery. Even after treatment, Steve was unable to return to manual labor. He moved with his 10-year-old son, Nick, to live with relatives in Kentucky -- however, Steve and Nick stayed in Kentucky just 18 months.

“I wanted to return to Michigan, because (the rest of) my family is here and my parents were aging,” Steve says. The only jobs he was able to find in Michigan were through temporary employment agencies.

“At this point, Nick and I were living check-to-check,” he remembers. “In that kind of situation, it only takes a health crisis or loss of job for things to go into the tank.”

Steve and Nick began living with his brother, until Steve sought help and was referred to Family Promise by the network of United Way partner agencies. “Family Promise provides an excellent fall-back situation until you can begin to get back on your feet,” says Steve. “When you are faced with a homeless situation, especially with a child, you can’t ask for anything more.”

Often, when families like Steve’s are struck with financially-draining hospital bills or life-changing illness, they need help re-stabilizing themselves. Finding that help can be emotionally exhausting. Access to local, worthwhile organizations like Family Promise through the network of United Way agencies is a critical step in regaining independence. United Way funding ensures that families do not have to let financial hardship defeat their opportunities to overcome adversity.

Heart of West Michigan United Way uses its Community Investment Fund to support local organizations that uphold family and community strength and well-being through housing services. Learn more about how United Way's Community Investment Fund works for Kent County or show your support with a donation now.