History

THE BEGINNING

Karen Olson was rushing to a business meeting when she passed a homeless woman on the street. On impulse, Karen bought her a sandwich. The woman, Millie, accepted the sandwich but asked for something more — a chance to be heard. Karen stayed with Millie and listened. What she heard made her understand that homelessness brought profound feelings of diminished self-worth and disconnection from society. Soon after, Karen and her two sons began delivering lunches to homeless people on the streets of New York.

1986: THE FIRST NETWORK

When Karen learned that homelessness was affecting families right in her own community in New Jersey, she knew she had to do something. But this was much more than giving sandwiches. She brought together people in need and people who wanted to help. Existing community resources could provide shelter, meals, and housing. Volunteers could use their skills, knowledge, and compassion to help their homeless neighbors find employment, reconnect with society, and restore their dignity.

 

She approached the religious community. Congregations offered hospitality space within their buildings. The YMCA provided showers and a family Day Center. A car dealer discounted a van. The first interfaith hospitality network opened on October 27, 1986.

1988: THE NETWORK GOES NATIONAL

As word spread, more New Jersey congregations formed a second network. Other congregations were inspired to develop similar programs. In 1988, we formed the National Interfaith Hospitality Network to bring the program nationwide. In addition to shelter, meals, housing, and job-seeking support, our Affiliates began developing programs for transitional housing, childcare, and homelessness prevention. Nationally, we added programs like Just Neighbors and Family Mentoring.

1992: POINT OF LIGHT

Family Promise was awarded one of 21 Points of Light, out of a field of more than 4,500 nominees, by President and Barbara Bush, signifying Family Promise as one of the top volunteer agencies in the country. The award recognizes how one neighbor can help another, and calls upon the nation to take action in service to our fellow citizens.

2003: WE BECOME FAMILY PROMISE

We changed our name, from the National Interfaith Hospitality Network to Family Promise, to reflect our broad range of programs and our vision of ending family homelessness. The name refers to the promise, in the sense of commitment, which communities make to families in need. But it also refers to the promise, the potential, inherent in every family.

2010: FAMILY PROMISE LAUNCHES IN DELAWARE

Conversations began in Fall 2008 about needing more resources to keep families together while they experience homelessness. At the time, Delaware had limited resources addressing this need. In March 2010, Family Promise® of Northern New Castle County opened its doors to families with children experiencing homelessness.

2003: WE BECOME FAMILY PROMISE

We changed our name, from the National Interfaith Hospitality Network to Family Promise, to reflect our broad range of programs and our vision of ending family homelessness. The name refers to the promise, in the sense of commitment, which communities make to families in need. But it also refers to the promise, the potential, inherent in every family.

2012: PATHWAYS PROGRAMS ARE LAUNCHED

Examining barriers our families face, we begin to connect parents with affordable housing options and career opportunities. Additionally, we formalized our “graduate” program to help ensure lasting independence for families. We are proud to report that after a year of the Pathway Programs, 92% of our families remained housed one-year post-transition from Family Promise® NNCC.

2014: COMMUNITY

BASED SERVICES

Because Family Promise® NNCC’s hospitality network is always at capacity, we began case management for families outside of the network and our waiting list. Case management is similar: budgeting help, update resumes and assistance with job search and housing location, support and linkage to community resources.

2015: FIVE YEARS OF KEEPING PROMISES

Over 35 congregations engaged, 800+ volunteers and four staff. Programs now include: Shelter Diversion- assisting families to go from homelessness to housed without entering the shelter system and Rapid Rehousing for families in our shelter programs in the community. Our core remains our Rotational Hospitality Network where families are guests and receive hospitality and assistance to secure housing.

2018: THE HOSPITALITY 

CENTER LAUNCHES

Recognizing the severe need in our community for emergency shelter beds, we launched our Hospitality Center. The Hospitably Center represents our first static shelter site. Family Promise® NNCC is one of only a few affiliates to offer both rotational and static shelter. The opening of the Center doubled our shelter capacity.

2020: TEN YEARS OF EMPOWERING FAMILIES

Over 53 congregations engaged, 2,100+ volunteers and 8 full time employees. Family Promise® NNCC now served 44.9% of all families experiencing homelessness in Delaware.

  • Programs now include:

    • Two shelter programs: the Hospitality Network and Hospitality Center

    • Two Community Based Programs: The Pathway to Housing and the Pathway to Diversion.

    • Two Aftercare Programs: The Pathway to Career and the Pathway to Independence.

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