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Family Promise Initiates New Shelter Model

(originally published on January 21, 2021)

Family Promise of Waukesha County is a recipient of a $4,000 grant from the Catholic Community Foundation to be used for a new apartment-based shelter program for families. This donation is the most recent grant that Family Promise has received to bring this program to life. The Apartment Shelter Program began in December of 2020 in response to the impact of Covid-19. Since November 2014 Family Promise of Waukesha County provided shelter to over 100 families experiencing homelessness through a congregation-based shelter program. 28 faith communities either provided space or volunteers in an effort to give families an opportunity to get out of homelessness. Up to four families would stay in a church one week at a time. Each Church would offer hospitality to families, helping them through a challenging time. During the day families in the program would go to work, school or stay at the Family Promise Day Center for Case Management, access to showers, storage, and other resources to help them regain their independence and find a permanent housing situation.

In April 2020, due to Covid-19, the congregation-based shelter program was suspended to protect both the volunteers and families. Immediately, Family Promise of Waukesha County shifted gears and changed its programming by starting a program to prevent family homelessness. Executive Director, Joe Nettesheim said, “The virus forced us to drastically change our approach to how we serve low-income families and families experiencing homelessness. These families are already vulnerable, and they do not have the resources to absorb a loss of income. It was imperative that we find a way to support them without putting them or our volunteers at risk.” Although the organization assisted 30 families to remain in their home with rent and utility assistance, there were still families who needed shelter. Therefore, in December 2020, Family Promise opened its first apartment-based shelter. This program provides families shelter in an environment that fosters independence and lessens the risk of becoming infected by Covid-19. Plus, at the end of their stay, a family has the option to take on the lease. Thus far one family stayed in the apartment for 35 days before they were able to move into their own apartment. The organization plans to rent four apartments to provide shelter in 2021.

The grant from the Catholic Community Foundation and others allowed this program to become a reality. Nettesheim explained, “Partnering with faith communities and volunteers allowed us to provide shelter and services efficiently. We did not have high overhead for staff or for a facility. In order to make these changes we needed financial help from many different avenues. We are humbled by the response of the foundations, businesses, congregations, civic groups and individuals.” Other foundations supporting this program are the Catholic Community Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Oconomowoc Area Foundation, Forest County Potawatomi, Green Bay Packer Foundation and other family based foundations.

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