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Family Promise of Linn County seeks additional money as it expands to support homeless refuge families

John Derryberry, Family Promise executive director, stands with Sara Cabongo Francisco, a 16-year-old refugee who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo, during a benefit concert called Joyful Noises at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids on April 6.
John Derryberry, Family Promise executive director, stands with Sara Cabongo Francisco, a 16-year-old refugee who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo, during a benefit concert called Joyful Noises at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids on April 6.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A local nonprofit is seeking donations as it expands services to support longer lengths of stays for homeless families and refugee assistance.

Family Promise of Linn County earlier this year expanded the cap on how long families could stay in the program’s housing from nine weeks to six months. Families also can now receive continuing case management and transitional housing through the St. Stephen’s home for up to an additional year.

“Going from nothing to stable is a long process,” John Derryberry, Family Promise executive director, said in a news release. “For our refugee families especially, that process is longer than everyone suspected. Homeless services have to be based on outcomes, not time limits, in order to be successful.”

The organization discovered the additional needs while working last year with two refugee families. Sara Cabongo Francisco, 16, is part of one of those families.

She fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo and sought refuge at the United States southern border after a monthslong journey through South and Central America but was immediately separated from her uncle, with whom she traveled and who still is missing.

Cabongo Francisco was on her own for six months before being reunited with her mom, stepfather and three siblings in Cedar Rapids. They’ve tried to start anew, and Family Promise has helped.

Family Promise also assists with housing stability, assistance and coordination with the ICE immigration and the asylum process, education and other needs. The organization partners with several faith communities to provide families with shelter and interpersonal support.

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“We are about helping families and just because a family comes from a slightly different background than the families we typically work with, this family still needs a home,” said Anna Patty, vice president of the Family Promise board of directors.

However, the expansion also adds costs, she said. The organization anticipates needing an additional $35,000 to carry out its new mission. They held a benefit concert called Joyful Noises last week, but are still looking for donations, volunteer support and more congregations to join the support network.

Those interested in participating can contact the organization at (319) 540-6494 or info@familypromiseoflinncounty.org and visit familypromiseoflinncounty.org for more information.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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