Faith Engagement

Overview


The goal of Faith Engagement is to mobilize the faith communities to work together through comprehensive collaborative efforts to meet immediate and long-term need of people living in poverty. The mission is to develop strong relationships by recognizing that faith organizations can make greater headway through combined action as opposed to individual effort. All people in Billings should have access to resources, impactful relationships, and the skills to thrive within the community; the Billings' faith community can help make this possible.

2014 Analysis of Faith Collaboration


Faith collaboration is the idea that faith communities can work together to greater impact people living in poverty. A study was conducted in order to gauge the willingness of faith leaders to collaborate and to identify the type of collaboration they wanted to develop.
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Outcomes:

A total 78 faith communities completed an 11 question survey. All outcomes of the survey are available in the report, Analysis of Faith Collaboration.
Of the 78 total respondents:
  • 98% agreed that homelessness is a serious problem in Billings
  • 72% disagreed that the homeless needs in Billings are being met
  • 88% felt a need to further faith collaboration in Billings
  • 55% would be willing to join collaborative efforts
  • 100% agreed that providing support to people living in homelessness and poverty was part of their religious beliefs
  • 77% do not have a volunteer coordinator
  • 92% have received requests for different forms of assistance (money, gas, rent, shelter, food, etc.).
When asked about the greatest unmet need for the homeless population, the majority of respondents stated housing, personal interactions, and social services were needed. The majority of respondents agreed that collaboration includes community organizing, program creation, and building relationships. Most respondents rely on Faith Leader or Church advertisements to encourage community involvement. Lastly, when asked what they offer to people living in poverty, the majority noted they give monetary donations, food, partnering with service providers, and community outreach.

2014 Faith Engagement Panel Discussion and Resource Fair


VISTA members Deirdre Loftus and Jessi Courier organized the first Annual Faith Engagement Panel Discussion and Resource Fair through the guidance of a steering committee; the event served as an education tool for the faith community.

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The half-day event was held on October 28, 2014 and the event consisted of three panel discussions with representatives from four service agencies speaking on each panel. Panel topics were: Shelter, Supportive Organizations, and Relief Services. An additional 18 organizations were invited to table at the resource fair. Forty-two different faith communities and 47 different service agencies were represented. Please refer to the following Billings Gazette articles, Planned panel, resource fair hope to help turn faith into action and Helping the poor brings service providers, people of faith together.

Outcomes:

From the conversations at the Faith Engagement Panel Discussion and Resource Fair over 32,000 diapers were collected by First United Methodist in a Diaper Drive to benefit Family Promise of Yellowstone Valley, Central Christian Church had a Winter Wear Items Drive, Trinity Lutheran Church reached out different service agencies about doing an Angel Tree, and most importantly, many relationships were formed between the faith community and service providers. Please see Susan Olp's piece for the Billings Gazette discussing the diaper drive: Diaper drive benefits babies at Christmas.

2015 Billings Community Connect


Billings Community Connect (BCC) is an annual one day, one stop event where people experiencing poverty and homelessness can come to a safe place and have access to numerous forms of assistance. On the 9th annual BCC, AmeriCorps VISTA members Deirdre Loftus and Jessi Courier recruited guides from the faith community to escort guests around the event. The community loved adding this personal touch to BCC and look forward to including the guides every year. Check out Mike Ferguson's piece for the Billings Gazette which mentions the role of the guides at Billings Community Connect, Event connects services, smiles with with the people who need them most.

2015 Billings Youth Connect


An advisory group of faith leaders, under the guidance of VISTA members Shametrius Long and Jessi Courier, spearheaded an event linking youth experiencing poverty and homelessness with service agencies whose mission is to assist young adults. Billings Youth Connect (BYC) was held on June 9, 2015 and it was a one-day, one-stop event – similar to Billings Community Connect.A total of 31 service providers were present the day of the event and 29 youth, in the target audience, attended the event. Those in attendance learned about a variety of opportunities including education, employment, food resources, health services, mentorship, social services, shelter, and more. Please see the following Billings Gazette article Billings Youth Connect newest Faith Engagement project and Gazette opinion: Billings, let's unite to help at-risk kids.