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How did Family Promise of Washington County, Oklahoma (FPWCOK) get started?
FPWCOK is part of a national affiliate network called Family Promise National, which was started in the late 1980's by a woman named Karen Olsen, "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." The first interfaith hospitality network opened on October 27, 1986.
Family Promise of Washington County, Oklahoma began in 2012, when a group of caring, compassionate individuals who were concerned about homeless children and their families, came together to form a core team. FPWCOK became one of three affiliates in Oklahoma, and began serving families in September 2015.
How many families are able to participate in Family Promise at a time?
Family Promise typically accepts four to five families, up to 14 family members. This number allows each family to receive intensive case management and goal setting, while at the same time, makes it more manageable for our host sites and volunteers.
How long do guest families stay in the program?
Guest families typically stay in the program for approximately 90 days. However, Network directors often extend the stay as long as families are making good-faith efforts to find housing. Because we are focused on a long-term plan, we want to make sure we help our guests get to the point where they can maintain housing. In some communities, families can find housing within 30 days. In other communities-where there is a severe shortage of low-income housing, and waiting lists for public housing and Section 8 are closed-finding a home can take months. However, as long as the family is compliant with the rules and working their case plan, we won't exit anyone until they are stabilized.
How many host congregations are needed within a Family Promise Network?
Ideally, a Network has 13 host congregations; you want to start with that number of hosts in place, but some networks open with fewer, generally at least 10. Fewer than that could overtax some congregations, jeopardizing their participation. Having more than 13 can dilute the experience for congregations, resulting in a loss of continuity and focus.
What facilities do host congregations need to have for guests?
Facilities must include a lounge area (with sofa, chairs, tables, TV), a dining area, a kitchen, bathrooms, and sleeping accommodations. Ideally, congregations provide a separate room, such as a classroom, for each family. If that isn't possible, a fellowship hall or other large room can be divided by partitions to provide privacy.
Our building is in use almost all the time. How will we find the space?
Churches are busy places with many demands on their space. Rarely does a perfect space exist. Hosting almost always means making some scheduling adjustments for activities and meetings. For example, four or five times a year, AA or the Bible Study Group may need to move their Tuesday night meeting to another room.
Can families' belongings be moved in the morning and moved back in the evening to permit the congregation to use the space during the day?
No. The sleeping accommodations need to be dedicated to the families for the entire host week. The beds and the guests' belongings must not be moved in the morning and put back in the evening. Besides being cumbersome, moving the beds and the guests' belongings would be difficult for guests. When guests arrive on Sunday, they come with their belongings and perhaps a few of their children's favorite toys. They want to arrange their space as if it were their home.
Where do guest families stay during the weekday and during the day on weekends?
In most Networks, families stay at the day center, which is a homelike atmosphere, where families are able to bathe, do laundry, eat breakfast and lunch, and utilize computers. The day center provides a permanent address and serves as a space for families to take care of young children, manage needs and set goals.
How are families referred to the Family Promise Network?
Anyone is able to make a referral to Family Promise. When a homeless family seeks shelter through an agency, often a social worker will conduct a brief interview and may contact the Network director to find out if space is available. If the answer is yes, and if the family seems appropriate for the Network, the agency refers the family to the day center. At the day center, the Network director conducts an in-depth interview before accepting the family into the Network.
What are some advantages of the Network program over a more traditional shelter?
A Family Promise Network has these advantages:
* A Network is cost-effective because it utilizes existing community resources.
* A Network program doesn't institutionalize shelter as a solution to homelessness.
* In Networks, about 80 percent of the guest families find permanent housing, often with volunteers' help.
* For congregations, the Network is a vital outreach ministry within the walls of the members' own church.
* A Network is a catalyst for other community initiatives. Many active Networks go on to create new programs in areas such as parenting and mentoring, transitional housing, and housing renovation.
Isn't it difficult for families to move week to week?
Moving every week isn't ideal, but most families say that the homelike setting and the support of volunteers more than compensate for the moving. While host congregations change every week, the day center remains the same, providing continuity and a home base for families as they look for housing and jobs. The day center also provides a permanent address that families can use in their housing and job searches.
Will the children miss school because their families are staying in different congregations every week?
No. The Network director works with the school system to ensure that all children attend school. The day center is the permanent address of the Network. Children go to the school they have been attending or to the school nearest the day center. Arrangements are made locally with the school system.
In 1987, Congress passed the McKinney Act, legislation that requires all states and school districts to provide for the education of homeless youth. Each state has developed a plan to implement the Act. Most of the state plans are flexible and allow children to attend the school they last attended or the school closest to the shelter (day center).
What are the insurance implications of participating in the Network? Does the congregation have to amend its policy?
Each local Network must carry general liability insurance. Congregations are usually covered by their own property and liability policies because Family Promise is considered to be an outreach ministry, a regular activity of the church like a youth sleepover or Friday night supper. Most congregations find th