Member Spotlight: Family Promise of South Sarasota County
Q&A with Jennifer Fagenbaum, Executive Director
Q: Tell me about what problem this program/service solves?
A: FPSSC helps families create a stable housing situation by providing rent assistance, move-in assistance, shelter, transitional housing and workforce affordable housing.
Q: Can you tell me about a specific person who has used this program?
A: Here are some family stories:
The Langer Family
“We now have our own place to live, I have gotten to be in a stable environment and housing situation for the first time in more ten years thanks to Family Promise and all of its volunteers. Alexander is so comfortable and has adjusted so well. He has gotten so much happier and so am I. Just knowing we have somewhere safe to stay and that’s ours, is an amazing feeling. Again, thank you all for everything you’ve done for me and my son. We appreciate it more than you know and are so very grateful.”
The Santiago Family
Jeannine and Allen Santiago reside in South Sarasota County with their three children. Jeannine and Allen came to Family Promise for assistance when their landlord was not going to renew their lease after five years. Jeannine, Allen and the three children were given a room inside a family member’s home to stay in, but it was not big enough for the five of them. The Santiago Family found a new place to call home at Palm Port Apartments in North Port. Family Promise assisted with $1276 to help the Santiago family move into a new apartment with subsidized rent and find stability again.
The Serov Family
Alla and her 3 children (Ella, Nellie, and Valeri) were in the BridgeHousing Program in 2023. Alla’s top three goals for her time in theprogram were to find stable housing and to learn how to improve hercommunication skills, especially with the children. Alla made good useof her time in the program and was able to successfully complete all ofthe steps and move into her new apartment with the children. Shecontinues to work with Aftercare and has monthly case management.
Q: What attracted you to this cause?
A: I have experienced homelessness personally and don’t want other people with children to have to go through it.
Q: How has this changed you personally?
A: I get to wake up every morning and work to make people’s lives better. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you are facing?
A: Funding to build workforce affordable housing is our biggest challenge. We don’t have anything to sell and we operate solely off of donations and grants so we have to get the funds to build the housing that is needed in our community. We cannot build housing by getting a loan because we then could not charge an affordable rate to the clients and still cover our costs.
Q: What do you think other people should know about this organization?
A: We are helping working local families who are struggling and living paycheck to paycheck. We do not help people who are not working and are getting government assistance. The families we help range from hospitality, construction and retail workers to firemen, policemen, nurses and teachers. Anyone making under $35/hr is struggling right now with the rising cost of living.
Q: What goals do you have for the organization?
A: One of our Strategic Plan goals is to create a campus with our offices, shelter site, and additional housing over the next 3-5 years and we are looking for approximately 5 acres between Venice and North Port to do this. The more we take on, the more staff we need and we have outgrown our current rented office space again.
Another strategic plan goal is to create hundreds of affordable workforce housing units over the next 3 years. We are currently purchasing 2.3 acres to put 54 units on in Venice and another 1.36 acres to put 10-12 units in North Port. This is in addition to the 12 units we have already built.
Q: Upcoming special events?
A: February 10th, 2024 2-6 pm, Mardi Gras Party at Shuck N Ale in Venice with cajon buffet, live music, and special Mardi Gras inspired drinks.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with me?
A: FPSSC provides wrap around services for the families we work with through all the partnerships we have. We have working relationships with all the other nonprofit organizations and can refer a family to any services they may need so that the family can get all their needs taken care of such as: childcare issues, counselling and mental health services, employment, transportations, medical needs, etc.