Family Promise of Gallatin Valley: Taking Great Strides Forward

by Gloria Edwards

I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with Christel Chvilicek Tuesday, May 25th. Christel is the current director of Family Promise of Gallatin Valley. As the first director of this nonprofit organization, I try my best to keep informed of recent happenings and reach out to support this important mission which is near and dear to my heart.

As a member of Bozeman United Methodist Church and the Social Justice Action Team, the lack of affordable housing and resources to help the “least of these” is of utmost importance. For several weeks Pastor Eric focused on “home” in his sermons. But what if you don’t have a home? What does that do to the self-esteem of a parent that can’t provide for their children? If you’re a teen, how do you do your homework while sleeping in a car? What if the baby has a cold and you just ran out of diapers? Many people are working 2 jobs and still can’t make it financially in the Bozangeles our community has become.

The average price of a 2-bedroom apartment in Bozeman is over $1900. The average price of a home is upwards of $600,000. There may be plenty of jobs, but at $12 an hour, most peoples’ salaries don’t come close to paying for housing costs. Before Family Promise opened in 2006, Bozeman was known throughout the state for shipping the poor out and pretending the problem of homelessness did not exist. I will never forget the first statewide homeless action meeting I attended. When I explained that Family Promise was the first year round program for homeless families in the Bozeman area, the entire room erupted in applause.

A lot was accomplished in the 9 years I served as director. We got our feet on the ground, bought a day center, secured several churches for overnight stays and meals, trained hundreds of volunteers and served over 100 homeless families. It was a great beginning, but just that: a beginning.

What is wonderfully exciting to me is the forward  direction Family Promise is heading. They are serving twice the number of homeless families they served just a year ago. There are now 9 transitional houses for families to give them more time to find permanent housing. Most importantly, they have broken ground and are now building a state-of-the-art 2-story facility. This facility will consist of an early childhood learning facility for 96 children ages 0-5 on the first floor, a Family Support Services Day Center on the 2nd floor, and a wonderful playground designed by the same people that designed Story Mill playground. Community Health Partners will be next door, and 96 affordable senior apartments and 144 affordable family apartments will be adjacent to them. GMD Development is building the apartments and donated the land to Family Promise.

To me this is a dream come true! I can think of nothing better than a centralized campus of housing, medical care, childcare and day services. The childcare center will operate expanded hours including weekends to best meet the needs of low-income families that typically don’t work a Monday-Friday schedule. 70% of the families working with Family Promise are single parent families. A non-traditional schedule will better meet their childcare needs. 

This ambitious program costs $6 million, and most of the funds have already been raised. It is only possible because of the vision and hard work of the staff, board, and volunteers. It is also possible due to the excellent partnerships Family Promise has built with Community Health Partners, HRDC, MSU and others.

Want more information? Feel free to contact Christel Chvilicek at 406-582-7388. Drive by the facility as it is being built at Tschache Lane and Sacco Drive (behind Lowe’s). The facility is projected to be open and ready by January 2022.

How can you help? Methodists have been part of Family Promise of Gallatin Valley since its beginning, and have always given generously of time and funds. Let us continue that promise and help raise the remaining funds! Go to the following link to give: https://www.familypromisegv.org/capitalcampaign

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