As part of our ongoing conversation on homelessness, we asked members of the Family Promise network and individuals working to serve families experiencing homelessness to share their personal thoughts and reflections on Family Promise and the issue of family homelessness. These writers are true thought leaders, using their skills and expertise to develop and implement creative solutions that are changing the lives of parents and children in their communities. This post is from Geleen Donovan, Executive Director of Family Promise Union County.
This article was originally published on The New Jersey Healthy Communities Network.
Due to COVID-19, Governor Murphy asked everyone to please stay at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Families who are homeless are even more vulnerable during a public health crisis.
When the order to stay home was announced, we had four families living in our congregate shelter program at Family Promise. The order to stay in your own home resonated with us- our families who are homeless should be safe in their own home! We decided to move our families out of the shelter setting and into temporary apartments, where they would each have their own home. We furnished each apartment with the basics- beds, kitchen table, pots, pans, dishes, and WiFi connection.
In addition to emergency shelter, we also provide food and meals, lovingly prepared by dozens of volunteers each week at the congregational host sites. One of the key ingredients of the Family Promise program is the hospitality served to our families each night with dinner and friendship. Although we moved our families into temporary apartments, there are still many opportunities for our volunteers to help nourish and feed our families. We are operating a COVID-19 Emergency Food Pantry for the families in temporary apartments, as well as for the many other families we support who already live in a permanent home. Our volunteers have also donated ShopRite gift cards, along with UBER/Lyft gift cards for transportation to the grocery store. In the spirit of supporting local businesses, they have also donated gift cards to area restaurants.
The Family Promise community, locally and nationally, is a vital force which is prepared to respond to a crisis in innovative and unprecedented ways. At no other time is homelessness not only an inhumane and intolerable plight for our families, but it is now a community public health crisis!
Together, we are committed to help families who are the most vulnerable in our community!