Printed on: December 06, 2012

Happy to be home

By Clark Corbin
ccorbin@postregister.com

Family Assistance in Transitional Housing has made Shanelle Sweeda a believer in second chances.

Sweeda, a single mother of four, moved into FAITH housing five months ago after living at The Haven Shelter, an Idaho Falls shelter for women and families.

Sweeda was thankful to find The Haven but said she and her children -- ages 6, 5, 3 and 15 months -- were cramped. The shelter didn't feel like a home.

Through FAITH, Sweeda has her own apartment.

She has two bedrooms.

She has her own kitchen.

And she has her own washer and dryer.

"This is going to be the first Christmas that we will celebrate in our own home," Sweeda said. "This is the first time we've ever been on our own. To most people, it would just be an apartment or whatever. But to my kids and (me), this is our home."

FAITH is an Idaho Falls nonprofit that has provided housing for homeless families with children for more than 20 years. The nonprofit maintains nine two-bedroom apartments for tenants. Rent charges are based on a tenant's income.

Most FAITH clients pay 30 percent of their income to live in the housing, or a minimum of $110 a month. Residents are allowed to remain in FAITH housing for up to two years, so long as they complete weekly meetings with staffers, pay their share and maintain a budget.

"Clients have a buy-in; they pay their way," Executive Director Suzy Hersh said. "But we help them so they have a chance to get ahead."

After two years in the program, Hersh said clients have a better sense of the financial obligations they will need to meet on the outside.

"When somebody leaves here, I want them to know what it's like to pay their rent at the beginning of every month and have the skills to work within a budget," Hersh said. "Once you get behind, you're always behind. This gives you a two-year period to go to school."

FAITH's housing program also gave Sweeda a chance to land a job at a local restaurant as she saves her money and prepares to follow her dream of going to school and becoming a registered nurse.

"I don't know where I would be (without FAITH); that's a good question," Sweeda said. "If I wasn't here, I'd probably be paying rent at $500 a month and not be able to make it."

FAITH receives funding from grants, the local chapter of the United Way, rental incomes and the Goodfellow Fund.

Started by the Post Co. in 1931, the Goodfellow Fund is in its 81st year. Money donated to the fund is split between the Idaho Falls Community Food Bank, The Salvation Army and FAITH. Donations to the fund will be accepted through noon Dec. 22.

Through Tuesday, the fund had raised $28,936.47. Last year, the Goodfellow Fund raised a record $93,613.02.

FAITH's biggest needs are money set aside to cover utilities costs, which can hit $2,000 per month in the winter, and unexpected maintenance issues.