Family Promise offers an opportunity for a truly unique congregational outreach. Volunteers of all ages work together within their own congregation to help bring about a real change for homeless families.
Almost any congregation can host. It takes planning, perseverance and passion—and the belief that this is an opportunity for a congregation to engage in a truly transformational outreach.
- The network consists of 10-13 hosting congregations.
- The congregations provide space for typically 3-4 families (5 maximum, no more than 14 individuals) to stay for a week at a time.
- During the day, families are at the Day Center or family center, where the Network Director works intensively with them on a plan to move to self-sufficiency.
- There is transportation provided to and from the Day Center and the congregations.
- Social service agencies partner with the network to refer qualified families who are screened before they enter the program and provide additional services to help the families striving for independence.
- Volunteers are the heart of the program and range from people cooking meals or moving beds to those sleeping overnight or playing games with children. A host congregation will host about 4-5 weeks out of the year; approximately once a quarter.
Key Steps to becoming a FPV Partner:
- Communicate is most important. Talk about the program with people in your congregation.
- Ask yourself the following questions: Are there specific individuals who are movers and shakers? Is the clergy aware of the program and its benefits? Arrange for a meeting with key decision makers and be prepared. Show the intro DVD, have handouts and make sure everyone understands the basic elements.
- Networking is critical. Before the mission or outreach committee is going to vote, you want to have talked with several members to make sure they understand and endorse the program. Likewise, you will want to get the clergy’s support.
- Many people want to help homeless families, but there are many misconceptions and fears that people will have. You must prepare for any concerns about FPV and answer to the best of your ability to reassure a successful partnership.
Who does this program assist?
- This is a program for families with children. Our primary concern is that we provide children and their families with stability and start them toward self-sufficiency.
Is this program safe?
- There is professional management and specific rules, and all families undergo an intake process. Families with active substance abuse problems, untreated mental illness or domestic violence are not accepted into the program.
Who can volunteer?
- Congregations of all sizes host, because the commitment is only 4-5 weeks a year. Everyone can participate: children, working parents, senior citizens. Some congregations even partner with others to bring in additional volunteers—a wonderful opportunity for collaboration. Whether from within or another congregation, there is usually an abundance of volunteers.
How much space is needed?
- Classrooms, meetings rooms, or a large space divided off into discrete areas works perfectly. A congregation typically will need 3 or 4 areas for families; VPS is capped at 14 individuals (mostly children) and no more than 5 families. Since it is only 4 or 5 times a year that each congregation hosts, providing designated areas will only be necessary during a specific week of the year.
Is there insurance involved?
- This is outreach involving families, and no different than other programs you run at your congregation. Keep in mind that this is a hospitality program, not a shelter.
How much will the partnership cost?
- Volunteers usually donate meals, linens (beds not required), and a few personal items. The congregation would not need to budget more than $200 per host week.
After getting people in the congregation excited and the clergy on board, the next step is usually a meeting with a committee. Make sure that everyone in the meeting fully understands the program, and use the DVD to establish the parameters as well as the appeal. If there are questions you can’t answer, contact others in the core group or at Family Promise for answers. Sometimes a “no” comes about because of a simple misunderstanding, such as whether or not showers are needed (they are not.) Avoid a rushed response and provide your congregation with time to fully consider.
Presenting Family Promise as an Opportunity
A true passion for FPV will make you most effective. When people realize just how transformational FPV is excitement arises. You should always be excited too! Feel confident about knowing the basics and connect with the right people so there are advocates within the congregation. Don’t be discouraged by non-supporters; they often come around to be the most enthusiastic supporters.
Presenting the program should overall involve a short overview, a lot of passion, a personal connection, and a viewing of the introductory DVD. Ideally there should be 5 meetings. The first meeting should introduce the program; another should be dedicated to the introduction DVD, and at least 3 meetings for Q&A sessions.
Encourage people to visualize how the congregation gets involved and to envision the positives—interaction, families, fellowship. Repeat key points about frequency of hosting, diverse roles for volunteers, safety of the program and its track record of phenomenal success.
Once it gets to the decision-making body, be prepared to have a covenant written on congregational letterhead. Throughout the process, encourage members of your congregation to attend core group meetings.