As part of our ongoing conversation on homelessness, we asked members of our Affiliate Council—a collection of some of Family Promise’s most dynamic executive directors nationwide—to share their personal thoughts and reflections on Family Promise and the issue of family homelessness. These directors 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. Our first post is from Tony McDade, Executive Director of our Affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina.
What brought you to Family Promise and the issue of family homelessness?
Having served as a congregational minister myself, it is a blessing for faith communities to realize how they can fulfill God’s mission of compassion through sharing hospitality with homeless families. This is important missional work that makes a real difference for the good that lasts. The genius of the Family Promise model is that it optimizes the hospitality experience for everyone involved. Congregations get to do what they do best: love on families and help them through what may well be the crisis of their lives. Family Promise networks employ the expertise and nitty-gritty social work skills necessary to prompt and inspire families to be empowered so that they can thrive. This symmetry in ministry is vital and rare.
For my part, after many years of coordinating how congregations compassionately provide short-term charitable services to people in need, now I actually get to see how each story turns out! The customized approaches that Family Promise networks employ are the hallmark of effective social work done in complement with interfaith communities.
In short, sharing hospitality with excellence is just as life-giving for faith families as it is for homeless families.
What is the single biggest challenge facing your community in the fight against family homelessness?
The solution to family homelessness is houses, not shelters. The dearth of affordable housing in Greenville has been tabulated at a 12,000-unit deficit for those with incomes of $25k or less. This is a direct result of the gentrification that we are dealing with here, not unlike what is happening in vibrant communities nationwide. The impact on our guest families is they require longer periods of time in our programs (both the congregational network and interim housing components), so we are adjusting our hospitality strategies and services accordingly.
If you could share one piece of advice for another community working to empower homeless and low-income families, what would that be?
As noted above, Family Promise tends to bring out the best in everyone involved. Addressing pressing social problems such as family homelessness requires a truly collaborative effort. Just as we try to inspire the members of our guest families to discover, maximize, and build on their strengths, so can Family Promise Affiliates work to bond human services agencies, the faith community, school systems, governmental officials, and private entrepreneurs and philanthropies to work in tandem. Welcoming and nurturing dynamic partnerships where they exist–and inventing them where they don’t–is vital.
Tony explains why he has dedicated himself to the work of serving families experiencing homelessness.