Family Promise: Changing Homelessness
During the week of July 24, St. John’s will host three families sponsored by the local affiliate of the organization Family Promise. In so doing, our cathedral will be taking one small but significant step to combat homelessness.
More than 2.5 million children in America experience homelessness today; 35 percent of America’s homeless are members of families with children. Sadly, in many instances when homeless families seek shelter, they become separated. The founders of Family Promise set out to eliminate that problem. To achieve their goal, they enlisted faith communities to provide hospitality space within their buildings.
The initial 11 committed congregations in 1986 have grown to more than 240 affiliates in 43 states, encompassing the efforts of 200,000 volunteers and 6500 congregations. Family Promise of Jacksonville opened its doors in June 2006, serving families of two single moms with six children between them. By 2015 the Jacksonville affiliate had served its 100th family and has continued its vital mission through the pandemic and aftermath, which have been so hard on low-income families.
Family Promise is committed to “ending homelessness one family at a time” and, unlike many other ministries serving the homeless, keeping families intact! Working with faith-based communities, the organization shelters single mothers with children, single fathers with children, two-parent families with children, and grandparents raising grandchildren. Teenage boys and children over 18 are sheltered with their families. A grandparent who is part of an extended family is sheltered with the family. Family Promise strives to keep the family together.
Before the pandemic, St. John’s and other local congregations hosted families on their premises, providing dinner and overnight shelter for a week. During the pandemic, Family Promise of Jacksonville moved its offices to a new location that also could shelter three families. As a result, on-site hosting at volunteer churches is no longer a necessity.
So what does volunteer “hosting” entail today? Here are ways St. John’s parishioners can assist during our week of service:
- Provide an evening meal – Volunteers may prepare a meal or portions of a meal with other volunteers, bring in a restaurant carry-out meal, or fund a meal. If desired, volunteers may eat dinner with the families to get to know them.
- Purchase groceries – Volunteers may buy food items from a list provided by Family Promise and drop them off at the Family Promise facility.
- Host a Family Fun Evening (movie night, games, crafts, etc.) at the Family Promise facility.
The Family Promise national office has launched an online training program to help experienced and new volunteers learn the organization’s core values and hear the perspective of volunteers and former guests: https://family-promise.coassemble.com/unlock/mJ653FI#/
St. John’s Family Promise representative Brooks Moore is ready to assist prospective volunteers and answer questions. Contact her at [email protected].
Serving together, we can help make a dream come true… “Ending homelessness one family at a time.”
~Deacon Saundra Kidd