BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. - Home for the holidays isn't just a saying used often this time of year. It's exactly what some Twin Cities families wish for this Christmas.
Discover Church in Brooklyn Park will host eight families in transition this Christmas week, providing overnight shelter, meals, and comfort as part of the Families Moving Forward program. The organization is part of the Portico Interfaith Housing Collaborative, where more than 40 area churches provide overnight shelter and meals families throughout the year.
"It helps you get on your feet, and the programs they have are designed to help you stabilize your life," said Rita Samuel. Samuel moved to Minneapolis from Chicago two months ago, with her husband and two young daughters, Shanya and Shanyce, ages 5 and 3.
Samuel says her apartment building in Chicago was overrun with drugs, and she thought Minneapolis could provide a safe beginning, so she took the leap of faith to move to Minnesota before the holidays.
"I thought I would be depressed, but I am not. My kids are having fun, they got somewhere to eat, to lay down, they will have presents, so I'm happy," she said.
Church members donated meals and gifts, where parents could pick out presents for their kids, and kids could also secretly shop for their parents.
"They are in a tough situation because they are misplaced, and I like that term better than homeless because they really are just misplaced. We try to make this as much as a homelike atmosphere as we can for them," said Ken Kruse, Discover Church volunteer coordinator.
Volunteers decked out Sunday school classrooms with the comforts of home, even stitching handmade quilts for every person who is staying at the church, and every family will wake up to their own Christmas tree.
"When we talk about the Christmas story it's about a young family that needed a home and a place to stay, and they finally found a place," said Pastor Carl Billings. "The reason they don't have a home isn't necessarily because of them. It's because of the economy around them."
Samuel says the greatest gift is not found under the tree. It will be the look on her daughter's faces when they wake up safe and warm Christmas morning. And it's the certainty they will soon have a place to call home.
Families Moving Forward sheltered 52 families in 2012, and congregations provided more than 10,241 shelter nights and 30,723 meals, according to the organization's website.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)