'This is where I'm sleeping'

Published: Saturday, Aug. 31 2013 7:45 p.m. MDT

Carina missed her last storage unit payment but after explaining her situation, the manager allowed her time to make good. Her boss at work also is understanding, giving her time off last week to get the housing situation worked out.

"What I learned so far from this experience, is that when you're honest, they're willing to help," Carina said.

One night in Sherwood Park a police officer came to her car. She told Carina she could report her to Child Protective Services. After explaining her plight, Carina said the officer said she understood because she has kids of her own.

A place to sleep

Carina signed the lease and Milner gave her the house keys Saturday. They are the first tenants in the newly remodeled home an anonymous owner provided for Family Promise to sublease. They will be able to stay for up to two years at $550 a month in what is dubbed Promise House.

They also met the family moving into the upper part of the large house. They all joined hands in a circle in the living room as Susan Roberts, a Family Promise board member, offered a blessing on the homes.

"Let the might power of the Holy God be present in this place to banish from it every unclean spirit, to cleanse it from every residue of evil and make it a secure habitation for those who dwell in it," she prayed.

Carina's eyes moistened during the prayer and scripture reading.

Afterward, Roberts asked the children if they could say anything to God, what would it be.

"Thank you," Mahonri said quietly.

"Please bless my family," Armon added.

Milner gave Carina a framed plaque for the wall reading: Promise House. You are welcome here!

"It’s going to be a great addition to the community to have a family here," said Laurie Robinson, Family Promise shelter and housing manager.

Robinson, who will act as the house's landlord, readied everything for the move in, though she'd like to find volunteers such as a Scout troop to plant grass or lay sod in the dry, weed-covered yard.

Family Promise is a nationwide organization with affiliates in 180 cities. The nonprofit Salt Lake office, formerly known as the Salt Lake Interfaith Hospitality Network, opened in 1995.

It partners with 10 area churches of several denominations that provide sleeping quarters for up to four families each night. Volunteers from another dozen congregations make meals and offer other assistance. The average stay is 45 days, said Tony Milner, Family Promise — Salt Lake executive director.

The number of homeless families — often single parent — has increased 9 percent since 2011, and comprises 45 percent of the state's homeless population, according to the 2012 Utah Comprehensive Report on Homelessness.

About 16,500 people were homeless in Utah last year, up 15 percent over the previous year, the report says.

It's common for homeless people to live out of their cars as Carina has the past month, said Lloyd Pendleton, director of the state's task force on homelessness. Parents sometimes worry that a group shelter would be unsafe for their children due to drug dealing and other criminal activity, he said.

Family Promise's goal is to put a permanent roof over people's heads. "We ultimately want to get ourselves out of business," Robinson said.

Carina said her children were good about living in the car. They talked a lot and reminisced about places they used to live. They spent evenings in the library reading books or surfing the Internet until closing. For showers, a friend let her hose off the children in the backyard. Sometimes, if she had enough money for gas, she drove around town until the kids fell asleep.

"It's kind of boring," Armon says. "You can't watch TV, but we can play in the park."

But they don't have to sleep there anymore.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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