Carolyn Gordon, Family Promise executive director

The theme of this year’s breakfast is “Looking Toward the Future”.  Often, families come to us in their darkest time.   All of our families have lived somewhere, have had stability but then one day, it is no more.  It begins with something you or I may experience: health issues, divorce, death, a car breaking down or job loss.  You or I may have options and resources, such as an additional car in the driveway, family to take us in or extra savings to hold us over through these transitions.  Some families do not.  They find themselves needing Family Promise.  Staff, volunteers, faith communities, corporate partners and funders come together and we give families a future.  As families thrive, so does Family Promise. And as we grow, more and more families have the chance to grow with us.

Everything we do centers around our families. From day one we talk about housing, but also about career paths and future goals.  Kyashia wanted to be a nurse but being an expecting mom and having young children, she didn’t see how this was possible.  We saw how it was possible. Family Promise covered her rent while she was in school.  She received her high school diploma and nursing certificate and now has savings and wants to buy a car.  This was a small investment to get the family out of homelessness and also raise them up out of poverty. This is why we parents like Tanya, Namala, John and Michelle have careers rather than jobs; we covered the cost of professional licensures or helped them return to school.  While my office has financial records and marketing materials, it also has SAT prep books, CNA study guides and thanks to supporters like you, the checkbook ready to write the next dream for a family.

As an organization, we look toward reshaping the future of homelessness services. Family Promise remains the only provider in this area that can serve any family of any composition and size at any given time.  We began in 2010 when our niche was keeping families together.  Seven years later, this still makes us unique.  We currently operate the only shelter diversion program in the state of Delaware. Our staff helps families go from homelessness to home without ever needing to enter the “shelter system”. 

We have the best success rate in Delaware.  Over 80% of families served secure and maintain housing, all while remaining a family.   The cost per household is still well below any other average in the state at approximately $3,000.   $3,000 to help a family go from homelessness to home?  I think that is a very good investment in our community.  People often ask me how we are so successful.  Family Promise is successful because we shift the current culture. We operate a hospitality network, not a shelter.  Families are guests with a name, not clients with a case number.  They are experiencing homelessness, they are not homeless families. We are successful because your love and hospitality makes families feel welcome and hopeful night after night.  Beyond of volunteer network, our staff works tirelessly to connect families to housing.  They are 50% nonprofit professionals, 50% real estate experts and 100% miracle workers.  We have high expectations and believe in our families’ abilities to do great things.  They matter and through everything we do and say, this must shine through. 

Lastly, what does the future hold for Family Promise?  In order to serve more families, we are launching a second location, a Hospitality Center.  With over 1,200 families experiencing homelessness in Delaware annually, our current four family spaces just isn’t cutting it.  This new Center will serve an additional 50 families annually.  Recently, Jennifer moved out to her home, so full of hope and excitement.  She has been in and out of the shelter system for over three years.  Lisa cried tears of joy and some fear because she was leaving Family Promise with employment, her own place and a donated vehicle.  She kept saying, “It doesn’t seem real”.   Where these were once stories of seedy motels, separated from each other to accept services, or sleeping in cars, these are now stories of hope.  We have a responsibility to expand and extend this hope to more families. 

Over the past few years, I have become even more relentless in changing the future of homelessness services. I believe families can stay together.  I believe that dads can offer something to their family.  I believe that privilege and access are strong dynamics and we cannot be remiss about how they impact the families we serve.  I believe there is power in the faith community.  I believe parents should not be forgotten about in the pursuit to care for the next generation.  I believe that children need positive role models and I’m looking at 240 of them.  I believe we can serve up dinners and hospitality, but we can also advocate for better policies and legislation.  How can I believe these things with such conviction?  Because it is already happening at Family Promise.  You are making it happen. 

You prove a family can stay together and can secure housing within 50 days of first coming to Family Promise.  You prove we can challenge our own internal stereotypes and those of society.  You prove there is power in a smile, a hug and saying someone’s first name.   You prove that the Family Promise model works.  As one volunteer recently said, “Family Promise should be everywhere until it is nowhere”.  Until that day comes when we are no longer needed, let’s ensure every family has access to services and every congregation, volunteer, and group can experience the transformational power of Family Promise. Thank you.

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