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.
HISTORY OF FAMILY PROMISE ROCHESTER
Family Promise Rochester began 21 years ago as Interfaith Hospitality Network, a group of churches working together to provide food and shelter for homeless families. Family Promise Rochester, then Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Rochester, was first started in 1999 by a group of individuals and their congregations. The work of these early volunteers has helped us grow and become Family Promise Rochester. Our network continues to serve as a vital component to our organization empowering over 1,400 volunteers per year at 40 host sites to help families overcome homelessness. This model is essential to our philosophy of offering dignified and compassionate assistance creating a supportive community for our families in crisis.
In 2006, we re-branded our organization to Family Promise Rochester and joined a nationwide organization with over 200 affiliates. As Family Promise Rochester, we have added three components to our existing Interfaith Hospitality Network. These additional programmatic branches offer individualized skill building and supports, which are vital factors in stopping the cycle of poverty and moving families towards sustainable success. Another branch is our Community Housing program which provides long-term stable housing options for families who have successfully completed their goals in the shelter program. The final branch of Family Promise Rochester’s programs is our Family Mentorship Program. This program is in its infancy. It works to pair newly entering families with graduates of the program. This allows families to share their experiences, wisdom and common struggles. We would love to grow the capacity for our Family Mentorship program.
We took ownership of the 811 7th St. NW house, the beloved "White and Green" house as many of our families called it. This was home for so many!
Due to many unforeseen events, we took the biggest leap of faith and purchased a new building at 913 1st St. NW. Our new home, The North Star House - a guiding light for those in need!