Nonprofit Spotlight: Family Promise of Clark County to launch day shelter

Organization has served more than 825,000 families across the country

Woman with toddler
Family Promise is a national organization with more than 200 affiliates nationwide. Family Promise of Clark County will soon launch a new day shelter to serve homeless families at the Aquinas Center at St. Thomas Catholic Church. Courtesy of Family Promise

Family Promise of Clark County (FPCC), an affiliate of Family Promise, a national organization with more than 200 affiliates nationwide, will launch a new day shelter to serve homeless families at the Aquinas Center at St. Thomas Catholic Church.

The national organization, originally founded in New Jersey in 1986, has served more than 825,000 families across the country, and in December 2016 Family Promise of Clark County was incorporated after there were some hosted meetings in the area for local churches.

FPCC’s Core Team Leader Michael Pervere attended one of those meetings and was stirred to action, so he helped gather together the initial group to launch a location in Clark County.

“I was asked to be a part of a team of people that worked together to bring together all the pieces of the program and that’s how I got started,” Pervere said. “I’ve been working on it for the last year and a half. It’s been an amazing journey and I look forward to getting to the starting line.”

FPCC recently received a $37,500 matching grant from The Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, a charitable fund of the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington, as seed money to start operations in the fall of 2018.

Unlike other homeless shelters with a fixed location, Family Promise is organized as a network of host churches, support churches and a day center that provides services and resources for homeless families with children. The host church provides hospitality for up to 14 people a week at a time and then the next week, the families will go to the next church in the network.

“Family Promise provides portable beds for the families during their stay, and transportation to and from the Day Center,” said Katherine Radeka, PR committee chair. “The Day Center provides stability, intensive case management, showers and laundry facilities for the families. Support churches provide additional volunteers and help with fundraising. Rather than organizing a work party to go to another place to help the homeless, the church volunteers welcome these homeless families into their own ‘homes’ for the week. They get a chance to build different relationships with the families, which helps change people’s misconceptions about homelessness and their response to the homeless they see in their communities.”

The families that are referred to FPCC will undergo a screening process and develop a plan with a case manager to help them address the issues that led to their homelessness. The national organization has greater than an 80 percent success rate in graduating families into sustainable long-term housing. Currently, FPCC intends to launch this fall or winter, with the final date being determined by how quickly they get congregations to be involved in their host network.

One of the churches currently signed up to host is First Presbyterian Church in Vancouver. Antoinette Emch moved to Vancouver recently after 18 years of volunteering for Family Promise in Florida, and she encouraged First Presbyterian to become a Host Church.

“It’s not hard (to be a host congregation),” Emch said. “The guests are so appreciative. They help set up and clean up. It’s so rewarding – it’s not a place you don’t want to be. And it’s so important for the children.”

To date, there are eight other additional churches in Clark County that will be serving as host and supporting congregations.

Radeka explains that according to the Council for the Homeless, there are up to 31 families with children in emergency shelters, 29 in transitional housing and 44 that are unsheltered on any given single day. For this reason, FPCC is looking forward to setting down roots in Clark County to help serve these people.

Pervere said that his goals are not just for the immediate, but he’s looking ahead at what the program could be in the next year. He says, “A year from now we’ll have worked through all of our initial little start up challenges and will hopefully see families progress towards independent living – that’s our mission for all the families coming into the program.”

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A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Brooke Strickland is a full time freelance writer & social media specialist that specializes in writing blogs and other website content for local and national companies. She is also the co-author of Hooked on Games, a book about technology and video game addiction.