In November, Family Promise launched the Power of One campaign to create eight new Affiliates and serve an additional 1,000 children each year. The Initiative honors Family Promise Founder Karen Olson, and raised more than $188,000 from 48 longtime and new supporters. Family Promise is leveraging these resources to respond to new Affiliate development opportunities in communities from Maine to Hawaii.
One of those Affiliates—Greater Portland Family Promise in Maine— is preparing to open in July. Just last summer, due to high demand on a strained low-income housing and rental market, Portland social services began housing families in administrative offices and makeshift sleeping quarters. Families could find no space at the 36-unit family shelter or at three area hotels. Parents were forced to travel long distances to their jobs, and, in some cases, were separated from their children. The Portland Public School system identified 186 homeless children in 2016 alone.
Family Promise identified this need, offered expertise as the national leader addressing family homelessness, and engaged the community to respond through a cost-effective and sustainable model. Family Promise Regional Director Angelica Johnson has provided ongoing support and resources to a coalition of community members dedicated to making a difference. Within six months, the group secured $55,000 in new funding with a series of
grant proposals in the works. To date, nine host congregations and six support congregations have committed to participate and the Portland Branch YMCA will serve as the Affiliate’s day center at no cost. The YMCA will likely offer additional resources for the coming year, including a refurbishing of spaces used by the guest families.
The Affiliate recently conducted board orientation and coordinator training, and is well on its way to successful opening. Sara Ewing-Merrill, who is leading the effort there, says the Family Promise model is unparalleled in its ability to bring people together around a common goal:
“Working to develop a Family Promise Affiliate in Portland has built lasting bridges across divides in our community. Muslims, Jews, Christians, and un-affiliated people now know and respect one another because of our shared passion to help families experiencing homelessness in our city and beyond. These bridges will only be strengthened as we work together week by week to care for the families who will enter our program. Welcoming the stranger is a core value of all faiths. We are blessed to be building bridges across the many divides that separate us. We are many. We are one.”