(originally published on February 25th, 2021)
Q1. IS FAMILY PROMISE A NATIONAL ORGANIZATION?
A. Yes! Family Promise was started in New Jersey by Karen Olson in 1986. The organization grew quickly and now has 200 affiliates in 43 states. Learn the history of Family Promise: https://familypromise.org/our-story/
There are seven affiliates in Wisconsin. Family Promise of Waukesha County started serving families in 2014.
Q2. WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION AND EACH AFFILIATE?
A. Each affiliate is their own 501c3 non-profit corporation. They each have their own board of directors who sets their mission. Decisions are made on the local level, within the parameters of the national organization. There is an agreement that is reviewed and signed by each affiliate. The strength of this model is that affiliates are able to make decisions on a local level in response to the needs of their community while receiving the support of a national network.
Q3. WHAT DEFINES FAMILY PROMISE?
A. As programming across the country has evolved and expanded Family Promise cannot just be defined as providing shelter to families experiencing homelessness. Many affiliates offer other programs such as homelessness prevention programs and shelter diversion programs. Many have also expanded who they serve to single men and women besides families. Therefore, what truly defines Family Promise is community involvement and the transformational nature of our programming. These two values are linked. Many families have told us that it is the time, service and presence of the volunteers who lift them up and affirm them during one of the most difficult times in their lives. Regardless of if we offer shelter or prevention, we will remain true to the mission of Family Promise if we involve the community, and work to help those we serve to change their lives. At the February board meeting Family Promise of Waukesha County adopted the same mission statement used by the national organization. It says: Our mission is to help families experiencing homelessness and low-income families to achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response.
Q4. DOES EVERY AFFILIATE OFFER THE SAME PROGRAMS?
A. No. The commitment each affiliate has made is to serve those experiencing homelessness or poverty with their housing needs. Generally, programming falls into these different categories: Prevention, Diversion, Shelter, Stabilization and Housing. It does not mean every affiliate offers programs in all of these areas nor does it mean that affiliates offer programs in the same way. Each affiliate has the latitude to develop programs in a way that best fits the needs of their community.
Q5. DOES FAMILY PROMISE ONLY SERVE FAMILIES?
A. Each affiliate determines the parameters on who they focus their services. Many affiliates serve both single men and women as well as families. Family Promise of Waukesha County has focused our services on families with minor children.
Q6. DOES FAMILY PROMISE ONLY PROVIDE SHELTER USING CONGREGATIONS?
A. No. Some affiliates, like Family Promise of Waukesha County, utilize the rotational model of shelter. In this model families spend the evening hours in a church for one week. After the week is over, they rotate to another church. During the day families have access to the Day Center for case management, showers, some storage, job seeking and apartment searches. Every affiliate that used the rotational model had to suspend shelter for some time due to Covid-19. Other affiliates use one building to shelter families. This is called the static model of shelter. In this model volunteers come to the static site to provide service. Some affiliates use a combination of both models. Since Covid-19 affiliates have been forced to be creative and innovative in sheltering to keep families safe and healthy. One growing option has been to use motels and apartments for shelter.
Q7. WHAT PROGRAMS DOES FAMILY PROMISE OF WAUKESHA COUNTY OFFER?
A. Family Promise of Waukesha County provides a Family Homelessness Prevention Program which offers funds for rent, mortgage and utility assistance to prevent family homelessness. www.familypromisewaukesha.org/prevention
We have just started offering shelter using an apartment. Families who were previously in shelter continue to receive support from Family Promise of Waukesha County. This is called stabilization. While our focus is on serving families, if we saw a need, we could extend our programming to serve single men and women.
Q8. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE HIDDEN HOMELESS?
A. Family Promise often speaks about the fact that our organization helps the hidden homeless. The hidden homeless refers to families and individuals who have lost their home and have doubled up with friends or family or are paying for a motel from their own funds. According to the Hearth Act these families would NOT be counted as being homeless and would be low on the priority list for services. Yet they are families clearly in crisis and if they do not receive support, can easily fall into becoming chronically homeless.
Q9. WHEN WILL FAMILY PROMISE RETURN TO THE ROTATIONAL MODEL OF SHELTER?
A. We do not know. Ultimately this will be determined by when faith communities feel confident in their ability to safely host families. This cannot just be a few congregations- there must be enough to be able to share the work. It is likely that readiness to return to the rotational model will be directly linked to the effective distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Q.10 WHAT ARE THE CURRENT GOALS OF FAMILY PROMISE OF WAUKESHA COUNTY?
A: 2020 was a year of upheaval and change. We had to suspend the rotational model of shelter, initiated two new programs, purchased a new building and added staff. We hope to stabilize these changes and build on the generosity of our friends and supporters. Here are our top goals/tasks for 2021.
Complete renovation of day center/overnight accommodations
Hire an additional Case Manager and Administrative Assistant
Provide shelter to 20 families in 4 apartments
Provide rent/utility assistance to 75 families
Adapt Homelessness Prevention and Apartment Shelter Programs as needed.
Plan a return to rotational model for Fall 2021 or early 2022.
Implement 3 “formation/workshops sessions”
Add new partner congregations
Produce a promotional video about Family Promise of Waukesha County
Develop a finance committee